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Whether you are in a formal business partnership or joint venture with another professional on a service or product you offer, you must be vigilant about laying a strong foundation of the partnership. I would go so far to bet that divorces among business partners outnumber marriage divorces and can be just as ugly when they go wrong.

Here is a quick guide of "Ps and Qs" to consider before going into any agreement or partnership. If you currently have a business partner or joint venture with other professionals, this might be a good time to sit-down with your partners and reassess the foundation of the partnership.

Clearly define roles
Particularly imperative for business partners, establishing clear roles for each partner is critical. Start this conversation by first listing the major roles and responsibilities necessary for success. Then list the strengths of each partner and use this list as a starting point to divvy responsibilities that are best suited for each. Agree that each will not overstep the boundaries of each role as agreed upon. Creating a clearly written job description for each partner can also be valuable tool to avoid potential misunderstandings.

Clearly define expectations
Communicating clear expectations is the crux of any good partnership. Have an honest conversation upfront about the expectations of the relationship as well as the expectations each partner. The pitfall of many partnerships is when one partner feels he/she is doing more or adding more value than the other; clearly outlining expectations and revisiting these periodically will give your partnership a strong platform of communication.

Agree on terms
Whether you're in a long-term business partnership or doing a short-term joint venture or contract with another professional, outlining terms and expectations upfront is imperative. Avoid moving forward until terms are agreed upon. You can never be too specific with terms as they impact each person. Terms can include payment terms; requirements and method of payment; services or products to be delivered; deadlines or timelines; financial responsibility of each partner; any contingencies and any other details important to the relationship.

Ultimately, partnerships are like marriages. Partnerships require effort from all parties, constant communication, and beyond discussion and legalities, genuine and mutual respect. First and foremost, to achieve a successful partnership, you must find the right partner and be mindful of how you operate in a business relationship; then apply these Ps and Qs of partnerships.

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