When it comes to finding the right business partner, not just anyone will do. However, they also may not be the type of person you think you need at first. While many entrepreneurs will assume they need to find someone with superior technical skills like marketing or sales to help drive their business forward, it may be the nontechnical skills that make all the difference.
Below, a panel of Rolling Stone Culture Council leaders share 15 nontechnical skills you may not realize you should be looking for in a business partner and why having these qualities at your side could make for the perfect match.
After years of trying to fit square pegs into round holes, I finally realized that optimism is the critical first step to success and an essential quality in a potential business partner. No one can truly succeed without believing that it is possible. Sounds pretty basic, but it’s amazing how easy it is to overlook. – Ryan Lewis, Kindercore Vinyl
Integrity is a building block for trust, which is an essential component of partnership and collaboration. Having a strong internal compass is crucial in making sure the direction of any shared project moves in alignment with the greater good. – Jennifer Sodini, Evolve and Ascend
Honesty is the prerequisite for trust, which is a prerequisite for safety, which is a prerequisite for creativity. Creativity is critical for success, but it is a derivative of a relationship built on honesty. – Drew Silverstein, Amper Music
Evaluate their resourcefulness. If their back is against the wall and/or they’re told “no” as an answer, what is their next move? Do they give up? Do they just accept the circumstance as is? All of my business partners are incredibly resourceful and solution-oriented. Surround yourself with people who will push and create a path if one isn’t offered to them. – Lisa Song Sutton, Elite Homes Christie’s International Real Estate
A Partnership Mentality
Not every partner enters into partnerships looking for win-win scenarios; some are only focused on winning for their organization. It’s important to partner with folks who want to see both sides benefit because they’re the partners who will stand next to you as you push for success in whatever you’re doing. – Russel Wilenkin, Old Pal
The ability to clearly express feelings, strategies, opinions, concerns and so many other important things in a business partnership is critical. Without it, we miss opportunities, accumulate resentment and create weaknesses in the business. – Tim Jack, Rise
A business relationship is a relationship. One must build and nurture it. It requires many soft skills beyond what is transactional or profitable. Emotional intelligence is what ultimately makes the relationship sustainable and scalable. Short-term relationships without emotional intelligence can be bearable, if absolutely necessary, but for longer or larger partnerships, it is a must! – Shirin Etessam, OML
In any partner or new hire, I look to see how clever and how competent the individual is. Are they the type of person who can take a task that they’ve never done before and just figure it out? Or are they the type who needs their hand held and to be walked through every scenario? I prefer the former. – Milan Kordestani, Guin Records
There are lots of smart, ambitious, successful people out there, and these traits certainly keep them going. However, being gracious opens up a whole new world of opportunities for everyone involved. – Grace Cho, Artrepreneur
Resilience is key. Entrepreneurship is one of the most demanding journeys, and the ups and downs can seem never-ending. Business partners need resilience if they want to be successful because running a business is usually thankless and the urge to give up will become a familiar one. But if you have resilience to weather the storm, the journey will surely reward you in the long run. – Vanessa Gabriel, Drop Delivery
I’m excited when I see a level of inspiration around a concept or project that matches my own. It’s about a balanced dynamic. I want someone who’s responsive, accessible with time and resources, who likes to define progress and plans and who is willing to be vulnerable with ideas. To me, there’s a bit of a secret sauce related to commitment, enthusiasm, energy and, ultimately, innovation. – Gary Goldberg, SquadLocker
Whether we’re talking about a partner, contractor or employee, I first need to get a read on their character — their compassion, sense of humor, courtesy, politeness, respect, intuition, grace under pressure, authenticity, openness, etc. Of course, I can’t get a full read on this in the beginning, but anything short of me getting a positive read on who they are as a person is a non-starter. – Neil Moore, Simply Music
I believe that the most important nontechnical skill I look for in a business partner is their drive. Experience is always very helpful, but unfortunately it does not accomplish much if the individual does not have the drive. I believe someone who is truly passionate about accomplishing something will put in the extra time necessary to build the experience required to make a business a success. – Tyler Kowalske, Outpost Brands