The idea of a partnership may be appealing if you’re considering launching a small business. Unlike solo ventures where the burdens fall on a single person, partners can share responsibilities and often bring different skills and knowledge to the business. One partner may be great with numbers and planning, while the other is a whiz at marketing and sales. Combining these elements can open more doors and help the business realize more opportunities more quickly than it could with only one person involved.

L-A SCORE counselor Ralph Tuttle cautions, however, “Partnerships have many potential downsides as well. Conflicts waste time and money, erode focus and strategic direction, cause emotional and financial pain and destroy businesses and reputations.”

And according to George Gage, a business mediator and partnership expert with BMC Associates in Washington, D.C., business schools rarely teach successful partnering techniques, and without proper preparation, partnerships are often doomed.

Gage lists several cautions that would-be and existing partners should consider:

• If you think you are not “partner material,” don’t take the partner path.

• Use extreme caution when selecting a partner.

• If you really don’t need a partner, don’t get one.

• If it doesn’t feel good before you start, don’t do it.

• If you currently have a partner but the relationship doesn’t feel positive, fix things now while you are still getting along.

Another valuable resource for prospective partnerships is, the nation’s oldest and most respected provider of legal information for consumers and small businesses. Nolo’s Web site has a wealth of free information about partnerships, including tips for crafting fair, reasonable partnership agreements.

To learn more about starting or improving your small business, contact SCORE, a nonprofit association of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free confidential counseling and training workshops. Call L-A SCORE at 782-3708 for additional information and an appointment.

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