It's more about a complementary match to you than a set of general guidelines.
One suggestion is to start with a trial period so both of you can figure out if you like working with each other.
Communicate as much as possible and be honest with each other. Basically treat it like a marriage.
I liken finding a good partner to dating (I know, sounds weird but bear with me). Usually, people try and impress each other initially to seal the deal. Which means that their true self does not usually come through.
So, you really don't know someone until you have your first conflict. How this is handled will be critical to your relationship. This is where most partnerships blow up. Jason's idea about a trial period is right on.
A couple more suggestions would be:
I have been in partnerships before, some good, some bad, and here are some of the things I wish I knew :
1. Share the same goal. Sounds obvious BUT if one of you wants to works really hard and sell the company for a few millions, and the other wants to take things easy and is just happy getting a regualr income from his business, problems ahead.
You might both love the same thing (designing, hair-cutting, doesn't matter what), but the goals have to be aligned.
2. Share the same time line. This is not the same as share the same goal: You might both want to have 5 hair-dresser salons (for example), but you want them within 3 years, and your partner is more thinking about 10 years. You will have both different attitude to risk and growth, and that will cause tension.
I have a partnership on a project with a guy who is 20 years older than me, so his time line might not have been the same as mine, so we made sure we aligned our expectations before we started.
3. Share the same work ethics If you work 15 hours a day and your partner 8, you will eventually resent him. I worked with a guy who couldn't get to work before 11am, and although he would work late in the evening, it didn't work. At 11am, he opened his email to 50 emails from clients, so he was on the backfoot all day long trying to catch up. Also his organisation was terrible, and I would have to remind him of tasks, etc.. That partnership didn't last long. Just make sure you have the same idea of what "done properly" means.
4. Trust You need to be able to trust your partner 100%. For example, if you don't think you would trust him having access to your bank account, it's probably the wrong guy. That's the level of trust needed.
5. Clear roles Make sure you both know who is supposed to do what. And then focus on doing your part really well. This is where point 4 comes into play, because you need to be able to trust that your partner will do his jobs as well as you would have done it yourself (point 3).
Sometimes you don't find out until you are really working together, because people are different at work and outside work. So the more progressive you can make the partnership, the better: For example, one project I am working on, is successful, will probably turn into a proper company. But for the moment, I do my part through my existing company, my partner does his part through is company, and we share revenue like that. If it all goes well, we might create a company where we are both directors, and by then we will already know if we work well as a partnership.
Communication is key. I remember a story of a business partnership that started with the following conversation:
Partner A) I heard you are a little dishonest.
Partner B) I heard you were a cheap-skate.
It actually worked.
A successful partnership is one where both parties recognize the other brings something they need to succeed.
+1 for Jason's suggestion of a trial period.
Well, I had a problem with one of my partners. The problem was tremendous and I haven't realized that on time. He actually did not believed in our product.
If you and your partner are equally excited about the idea, you have really good chance to work put everything. If one of you have doubts about it, and is not really keen to be convinced that idea is great, you should abandon that shit immediately.
That was my experience regarding partnership. You have to share the vision together.
Not sure how to best post this. I wrote about this a while back and folks seemed to like it.
Be Careful with Cofounders
http://www.panesar.net/2009/10/26/on-what-startups-are-really-like-be-careful-with-cofounders/ I have had more experiences, successful and not; working with strangers, and friends on many projects to have learnt this the hard way. Success is doing what others are not willing to do, longer, harder, deeper and when some may walk away. I have heard that you shouldn’t work with friends and done it anyways.
I have worked with complete strangers and ended up with the same results.
As cofounder friends, you must:
Working with a cofounder that is a friend is not much different than dating and deciding to be “serious” friends.
* have a history and understanding of each other as friends first,
* to frame the relationship as ‘co-founders’ in one place and as friends in another.
* know if you’re good enough friends to get through adversity together. Separate the buddies from the brothers that have your back anytime, anywhere. Those are the people you need with you in the trenches.
Beyond that, as good friends:
* Have you been able to solve other problems together using each others strengths?
* How do you resolve or go through things you don’t agree on being important, or solving one particular way?
* Have you had a disagreement that was major enough that we both were able to still come together, talk, understand each other, and choose what’s best apart from your mutual preferences?
* Are you in a startup for the same reasons?
* Is your co founder looking for the long haul and you’re looking to cash out?
* Life wise, would you handle marriage (if single) and the impact of other commitments in a similar way?