Avoid a Bad Business Partner

3 Rules for Avoiding a Bad Business Partner

Bruce Ackerman is the founder and CEO of Printavo, a business he started in 2012 after growing a print shop in college.  Since that time, Printavo has grown to help shops all over the world get organized and streamlined. He previously held a position as the head of design for Avant. Ackerman also produces content for Printavo's blog, which covers topics of shop management and efficiency. You can contact Ackerman at

In the decorated apparel industry, we often find that it is not a one-man show. While some print shops are owned by a sole individual, others are a combination of business partners putting their talents together to create a powerful business. Decorating is an extremely skilled trade that requires years of expertise and proper managing to keep it running smoothly. Businesses can grow exponentially when great minds are put together, but it can also be very dangerous. Before handing over the keys to your company a few things need to be carefully considered.

Rule No. 1: Examine the relationship between the prospective partners. Family can be tricky and friends can also cause problems. The key here is to make sure there is a strong mutual respect and friendship kindled between business partners. Your business will have peaks and valleys, so ask yourself how this partnership will endeavor through successes and failures. 

Being too close can be dangerous, but not knowing enough about the other individual can stress the business. Can you be 100 percent open and honest with your business partner about everything? Make sure there is a balance in the relationship to make executive decisions when no one is looking.

Once the relationship has been established, it’s important to take a closer look at how you will complement each other. Each individual comes from a background of different practices, habits, and lessons so make sure you understand what roles each will play. Take a look at all facets of a decorating business by breaking it up into departments. Perhaps one partner is in tune with the production—the printing, artwork, and all internal functions of the business. Maybe the other will handle outside sales. Perhaps they manage the office operations like finance and accounting. You don’t need a business partner that is stepping on your toes, so make sure their presence adds fresh, new, and needed value. 

Rule No. 2: Consider the intentions and goals of each business partner. This is arguably the most important key to avoiding a bad business partner. Most often than not, you look for a business partner to add something you don’t have, making the whole greater than the parts. Stop and consider what each partner wants. If personal intentions are put before the business, this can become a major issue. Consider figuring out what risks are associated with individual intentions before becoming partners. These can be red flags for some, and if they are not aligned, or agreed upon, can cause bumps in the road. This is almost like a marriage, similar rules apply.

Rule No. 3: Before signing any agreement, make sure you have a third party that can look through the partnership. They should be able to scope out any issues that may arise. Be sure to have a buy-sell agreement and talk through any possibilities that may cause issues in the future.

Obviously, make sure your visions are aligned, and you will be in a great place to gain a new partner for your business.