What to consider when looking for a business partner or employee?
What are the most important factors to consider when looking for a business partner, employee or service provider?
I agree with Jeff that trust is important... but to me trust is more like an outcome.
The important question is: what reliable, early indicators are there that I will likely be able to trust someone?
For me, it comes down to 1 core factor:
How well do they communicate?
Good communication is a signal for so many other good things: it's difficult to communicate well, consistently, and be insincere because you have to keep coming up with ways to lie; it's very easy to see when someone is stalling repeatedly.
Good communication entails good listening and independent learning. Someone who communicates well, can articulate questions and frustrations well, they can pinpoint what's causing problems and explain them. A good communicator will listen and process what you say.
In short, I've found that if I focus on a person's ability to communicate well, I can get a really good understanding of how well we'll work together long term.
This is definitely a tricky compound question, but I think it can be answered.
The common theme between a business partner, employee or service provider for me is Trust, Customer Service, Alignment, Passion and Respect.
Trust is highly important because to build successful long-term relationships you need be able to rely on the other person or entity to fulfill their obligations. If you build relationships without trust they won't survive for very long.
Customer Service is one of the most important aspects of any company. Without your customers, you wouldn't be in business. This process needs much more care than a simple give and take. Show your customers gratitude for doing business with you. Train your employees that customer satisfaction is important and taken seriously. You should only do business with other vendors that match or exceed your own values. If you are working with a service provider who has let their customer service slip, bring it to their attention. Give them a chance to rectify the matter before cutting ties with them. If they seem slow or unwilling to change, let them know why you are switching providers. This practice must be consistent across the board.
Alignment matters because its hard to spend a large amount of time around people who have different core values when doing business. You need a business partner that is aligned to the mission of the company, aligned to similar business values and aligned to making the business succeed. The same is true for employees. You want them to fit with the culture of the company, the pace of the work and how and why you do business the way you do. Service providers are a unique challenge, but you need to view them as valuable partners in business. Are you a small business? Find providers that are small businesses themselves, they are positioned to understand the challenges you face because they are in a similar position.
Passion is key to sustaining repeated and long-term success. Find people as excited as you are about the business. If that seems challenging, look at it as a way to excite other people by telling them how excited you are about the business. Passion will go along way to unite you and your business partner or you and your team of employees in reaching goals. By that token, let your business partner and employees be a sounding board. Listen to their passion about the business and see how that can be better incorporated to the overall company. Work with service providers who at the very least are passionate about their own business. It's a double win if they are also passionate about your business.
Respect may overlap with Trust and Customer Service, but I feel it is important enough to mention on its own merits. What I mean by respect is "open" respect. Open respect is respecting everyone even if you feel they may not deserve it. Respect that your business partner has ideas that may not always align with yours, but is still trying to help the business succeed. Respect the roles your employees play and how they help you succeed. Respect your service providers by honoring your side of the deal and communicating with them clearly. Respect is the ultimate currency so ensure that you think about it as if you were actually spending and earning it.
I think Jeff is correct on a high level. I'd like to diverge into IT generally.
You should be looking for the following important factors for an IT support provider:
- resource skill level - how much experience do they have, do they have vendor partnerships, vendor certifications
- level of resource - how many team members will they have available to work on your system. Will there be a dedicated resource for your business if needed?
- continuity of resource - what happens if a primary resource leaves, are they cross training each other on client systems?
- security - how do they handle your passwords and access to your systems.
- availability - if you need out of hours support, are they happy to do that.
- what happens when they encounter an issue they can't resolve.
- do they offer service level agreements, assurances, guarantees or rebates if they aren't met
- how do they triage your support requests
There are three separate and somewhat generic answers required here, I think. Because of course, it depends on who you are, what your business is and what your short & long-term goals are. Having qualified my answer, here's what is important to me.1. The most important qualities needed in a business partner are a personality or temperament that fits with yours; non-duplication of skills, meaning look for someone with a different and complementary skill-set, not a clone of yourself 2. The most important quality in an employee is enthusiasm. Skills can be taught, but passion cannot 3. In a service provider, value is paramount. The right solution at the right price. That doesn't mean cheap, it means the closest match of budget to expectation.