Quentin Hafner

5 Questions to Ask Before Any Partnership

Business partnership or personal partnership, it’s essential that we ask the hard questions in the beginning stages before we’re committed.


A current client of mine is having to do the hard work of unwrapping a business partnership that has gone sideways. After 2 long years of emotionally draining conflicts, petty arguments, false accusations, and too many anxiety-filled sleepless nights, she’s ready to call it quits.


In our working together through this dilemma, we’re having conversations about how she got to this place.


What she’s realizing is that she didn’t do enough due diligence before the partnership was formed, to thoroughly assess who she was connecting herself and her business to.


Her potential partner seemed smart, ambitious and charming. But he turned out to be a narcissist, and she had no idea, until it was too late and they were financially tied together.


Unfortunately, this happens too often to people.

Being partnered to the wrong person can be both emotionally and financially disastrous.


The best way to avoid a scenario like this is to have hard conversations up front. Sometimes, we’re so eager and excited about the partnership, that we don’t want to ask those hard questions, because we don’t want to hear the hard answers.


But if we don’t, we may truly regret it.


My client and I are talking about this idea in the context of her business partnership, but these 5 questions could apply to a romantic partnership, an employee relationship, or any other relationship we’re joining that has some implications.



1. What are you like when you don’t get what you want?‬

(I love this question as a screening tool for someones level of self-awareness. If someone doesn’t know, or can’t be honest about how they deal with disappointments, it may be a red flag.)


2. How do you go about getting what you want?

(I love this question as a screening tool to assess someones character. Are they a “get what I want at all costs” type of person? Or do they have a moral regulator and know their limits?)


3. When you are in conflict, how do you go about repair?

(I love this question as a screening tool to see how someone deals with conflict or if they have a skillset around repairing conflict.)


4. If I was your boss and I was going to fire you, what would I fire you for?

(I love this question to assess someones level of self-awareness and their level of humility with what they typically struggle with.)


5. What was your contribution to past partnerships not working?

(This is the best question of them all because it really shines a light on whether or not someone is capable of taking responsibility for their lives. You might be surprised at how few people can really be clear and honest with this question and not make it solely about the other person, the other business, or the other boss.)


These questions can be really hard to ask. I totally get it. We might feel like we’re being confrontational or ruffling someones feathers to ask them.


But remember, we can ask them with a kind spirit and be friendly and conversational along the way. We’re not trying to put people on the spot or make them uncomfortable, but sometimes we have to ask hard questions to get into the nuances of important information.


My client says that she really regrets not asking these types of questions in the beginning of her partnership. When we talked about asking these hard questions for her next go around in her new partnership, she admitted this might be difficult.


But when we quantified that her difficult partnership going sideways cost her somewhere around $2M and about 2 years of emotional drain, I asked her: “If I gave you $2M and promised you 2 years of happiness, could you ask these 5 questions?”


When we quantify their value, both financially and emotionally, asking these hard questions becomes easy!


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