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Trick or Treat

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Smart business practices include following these do’s and don’ts of partnerships.

BusinessTrickorTreatDoing business, or being in business with others, can either be a blessing or a lesson. In other words, you can find yourself feeling tricked or treated.

Business negotiations are tricky, but, if you’re good at it, the payoff can be pretty sweet. Sometimes, it can be difficult to distinguish a person’s character behind the mask of their personas. Experience has taught me many lessons about the mechanics of being in business with others—and how to make and break bad business partnerships.

A sustainable business operates like a machine. It is made up of individual parts that must fit together in order for it to work. While some businesses are dependent on one person—because that one person is the business—these businesses typically cannot function without the help of outside people, or contractors. No man is an island. We all need people, and the trick is in placing yourself amongst others who can assist you in obtaining your objective rather than hindering it. How a person approaches business is actually more important than the trade of their glorified work. You can be a master of your profession, but, if you cannot handle the business relationships that are essential to sustainable operations, then you’re setting yourself up for a bitter defeat.

So how can you tell if something wicked is knocking on your business’ door? For starters, always keep in mind what qualities and traits you value the most. It is imperative that you evaluate your own business; determine what your strengths and weakness are; and pinpoint the skills and talents that are most needed to grow your company. Develop a crystal clear picture of what you don’t want in your business. Outline the skill sets, culture and personality traits that are most needed to expand your organization.  Ask direct questions, check references and, most importantly, do your due diligence before entering into a partnership, contract, etc.  Be conscientious and apply deductive reasoning in situations with murky business associations.

Watch out for the fast-talking, overly persistent, know it all’s. These people are great at selling you a bill of goods. Before you know it, you have drunk the Kool-Aid, spent your hard-earned money or got into bed with the devil. These people always over-promise and under-deliver.  The point of doing business with someone else is to mutually gain from the association. These people are typically one-sided and very difficult to work with toward a common goal. These individuals usually are not driven by the same desires as you, and they are disillusioned by their overstated self-worth.  Paying attention to body language, or how a person speaks to you and others, can only tell you so much. Some persistent sales people are the most difficult to avoid because they cannot be predicted from the onset. They seem normal in the beginning, but it’s a trick! It does not take long to learn that this person is selfish and thinks they know everything. Their inability to listen and to be flexible makes working with them nearly impossible. They could be completely misinformed about something you specialize in, and yet they will remain blinded by their own beliefs.

The best thing you can do is review previous warning signs you ignored about people you did business with in the past. Are there patterns in others that you now know to watch out for, to avoid repeating the same mistakes? After some bad business experiences, I started noting correlations between people who over-promise and under-deliver.  I always research the person, do my due diligence and provide for exits along the way if the relationship is not proving to be beneficial.

The purpose of a good business relationship is to work toward a common goal, where both parties benefit from the business deal. Clear communication and honesty from both parties lays the groundwork and establishes what each expects and requires from the other in business dealings. In addition, always protect yourself: Review proposed contracts carefully, and have them reviewed by your attorney before signing.  This can prevent conflict in the future, while helping to determine whether a working partnership is likely to succeed or fail. While there are many different forms of working business relationships, every single one of them should always be built upon a foundation of mutual respect and trust.

Tips for Sweet Business Partnerships

·       Know your business objectives, and seek out people with the skills and qualities that can help you obtain it. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Find someone who is strong where you are weak, and vice versa.

·       Communicate expectations and requirements that both parties deem necessary for achieving a common goal.

·       Compromise, and be willing to bend—but not to the point of breaking!

·       Protect yourself with a contract, and provide for exits; archive all e-mail correspondences, invoices and receipts.

·       Learn from the past. Look out for warning signs by recognizing patterns and paying attention to a person’s cues.

·       Identify whether or not a person is of like-mindedness.

·       Listen to your gut. Unless your gut has a history of overreacting, it’s worth trusting the voice inside yourself.

Don’t get tricked into doing business without doing your due diligence!  Always be in doubt and check everyone out!