The right or wrong partnerships can make or break a business. These titans and Advisors from The Oracles share their top criteria for partnering with others and let us in on the biggest mistakes they’ve made in past.
1. The People Behind The Business
The most important factor in partnerships is the people behind the business. The founder’s clarity of purpose, passion, persistence, self-awareness and humility is everything. It’s not about what you think is true or what you think you have. It’s about what people need. I want to know how your product or service makes a real difference in people’s lives.
Biggest mistake: Virgin Atlantic recently did some filming to launch our partnership with Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation American Gin. I accidentally called him Bryan — and it stuck. (Sorry, Bryan!) —Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies; investor, author and philanthropist worth over $5 billion; previously named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World
2. Dedication To Doing Good
Before I enter any business partnership, two things must be in place: I must trust my partner, and our business has to make the world a better place.
Biggest mistake: Focusing too much on the money. No matter how much money is involved, you should never lose sight of the priority: doing good. —Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most dominant basketball players in NBA history; entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist worth $400 million
3. Compatibility and resourcefulness
When I invest in a business, I look at the same thing every time: the entrepreneur. Is this a person that I want to be in business with and why?
Biggest mistake: Thinking I could launch a business or solve a problem by throwing money at it. Being well funded often takes your eye off the ball and can kill your resourcefulness. — Daymond John, Shark on “Shark Tank,” NYT-bestselling author of Rise And Grind, creator of Daymond On Demand, and founder of FUBU which has generated $6 billion in sales
4. Unique Skills And Value
A partner should offer a unique skill or value, such as connections to contacts I couldn’t reach otherwise. Money isn’t enough. You can get money other ways — for example, a business loan or pulling equity on my house.
Biggest mistake: Not knowing the person long enough. The reality is you also partner with their family, credit, habits and addictions. Now, I wait until I know someone for at least five years before I partner with them to see their work ethic, track record and breaking point. You need to know they can communicate and are resilient when things go south — because they inevitably will. You simply can’t know that within the first year or two. —Bedros Keuilian, founder of Fit Body Boot Camp, author of “Man Up” and host of “Empire Podcast Show”; connect on Instagram, Facebookand YouTube; read how Bedros Built His Dream Life
5. Mutual Beneficence
I look and ask for all the needs or wants of everyone involved. Then I analyze them and all the angles. If I see a way that everyone can get exactly what they want, the deal gets done. Otherwise, I walk away. I learned the hard way never to force a deal on someone. Open, direct and honest communication is the only way for everyone to win.
Biggest mistake: I once created a deal that leaned heavily in my favor, and it led to the downfall of a multimillion-dollar business. While I was justified in gaining more, the other partners weren’t happy watching me reap so many benefits. Greed and ambition from those not getting what they want in a deal will win against your illusion of control. People’s loyalty to a deal will always be limited by the level at which it benefits them. —Matt Mead, founder and CEO of EpekData and BrandLync, divisions of Mead Holdings Group, Inc.
6. Trusting Your Instincts
I used to listen to my brain instead of my heart. I’d rationalize why a person or company would be a great partner, ignoring my gut. It was an expensive lesson but I learned only to do business with people I know, like and trust.
Now I ask myself three questions: Do I wholeheartedly trust them? Can they become my “friend for life,” inspiring me and adding positivity to my life? A decade from now, will I be proud of what we’re building, even with no financial gain? If the answer to any of these is no, I walk away. This helps me avoid negative energy and attract like-minded, brilliant people. —Mike Peters, problem solver, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who has generated over $1 billion in sales online; founder and CEO of the Yomali group of companies; XPRIZE Vision Circle board member
7. Similar Values And Opposite Strengths
My biggest mistake was partnering with someone who didn’t share my values. Today, that’s my No. 1 partnership criterion. My second is that the other person can do things I can’t. Hiring someone just like you won’t work. My business partner and I have been together for almost 15 years. We have the same values but completely opposite strengths, so we’re more powerful together than apart. — Craig Handley, co-founder and CEO of ListenTrust; read more about Handley: This founder trains his employees to quit
8. Equal Partners
My first partnership criterion is that we’re on the same level. If you’re the underdog, it may seem like a good deal at the start, but you’ll end up a slave to the business. On the other hand, if you have more to contribute, you’ll eventually realize you’re paying top dollar for a low-priced contractor.
Biggest mistake: Taking a family member into business because they were family — not because of their skill or dedication. If someone isn’t the best person for the job, you can easily erode the business and the relationship. —Lewis Mocker, co-founder of Infinite Prosperity; learn to invest, trade and build wealth with Infinite Prosperity’s free lessons
9. Honesty, Integrity And Initiative
I won’t enter a relationship with someone who doesn’t have the same honesty and integrity, even if they’re an A+ talent. My company stands behind a mission, not a leader. I don’t want to work with someone who only takes orders. That’s how you create a stronger community and opportunities for yourself and your clients.
Biggest mistake: My wife and I are partners in life and business. I worked on my own for the first two years after starting the company. When she joined me, I thought I ran the show and put my needs above hers. But now I’ve learned to be a better person, husband, business partner and friend. —Alex Schlinsky, former UFC and Miami Dolphins journalist; founder and CEO of Prospecting On Demand™ that’s helped over 100 entrepreneurs create six- or seven-figure businesses
10. A Shared Vision
I once partnered with someone who didn’t share my vision for our firm and clients. I worked more than my fair share, while they worked like a nine-to-five employee. It was a costly mistake but a valuable lesson: It’s often better to hire employees rather than enter a partnership.
Now I look at business partnerships like a marriage. We must have a shared vision. The partnership must amount to something greater than what we can do alone. It’s not worth the investment if all parties aren’t substantially gaining. —Nafisé Nina Hodjat, founder and managing attorney of The SLS Firm
11. Supportive Spouses
Partnering with someone also means partnering with their spouse. Aside from competence and ethics, my main criterion is that their spouse is on board with the business vision.
I learned this the hard way when we introduced a third partner in our business. He checked all the boxes, but his fiancée was not on board with what we were building and his role in the journey. My spouse and I should have built a personal relationship with them, together. His performance declined, and he ultimately left the company, which cost money and a valuable teammate. —Corrie Elieff, co-founder and Chairman at YESA; founder of Cardone Canada, currently the #1 global franchise partner for Cardone Training Technologies
12. Clear Expectations
We invite influencers to share their knowledge in our “expert webinars” series. It’s usually a straightforward process — except when it isn’t based on a clear agreement. We made that mistake once, and instead of receiving valuable knowledge, our audience had to listen to a sales pitch.
No matter whom you work with or how big the brand is, always ensure both sides are equally committed to the project’s success. Specify the responsibilities for both sides to avoid unpleasant surprises. — Simon Grabowski, founder and CEO of ClickMeeting
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This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.