15 Warning Signs a Business Partnership Might Not Work Out

15 Signs of a Bad Business Partner

Not all partnerships or deals work out well. Some just can’t formalize because of extraneous factors affecting the agreement, while others can be impacted by poor communication skills or a lack of flexibility on goals or approaches. This means that it is essential for leaders to stay aware of the state of a pending deal or partnership, especially if there are quiet signs that things aren’t going as well as they’d like — being forewarned about a situation can prepare the business to seek a deal elsewhere if necessary. To help highlight what you should watch for, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question:

“When talking with a prospective partner or vendor, what is one warning sign that a pending deal or partnership may not work out?”

Signs of a Bad Business Partner

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Poor Communication

“One sign that a partnership may not work is lack of communication. If communication isn’t clear or there is a delay in responses, then that is a sure sign that it’s best if the deal does not work out. Communication upfront will reveal a lot about what it will be like to work with the partner or vendor in the future, so don’t assume communication will get better if it’s not great from the start.” ~ Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

2. Unaligned Mission and Vision

“Whether it is working with my team or a possible partnership, our mission/vision should always be aligned. There will be chaos and mismanagement if one of the people I work with goes a different route. If we’re not on the same path, I’d rather cancel the deal.” ~ Daisy Jing, Banish

3. Inconsistencies

“The biggest warning sign when evaluating a prospective partner or vendor is inconsistencies. It’s true that vendors can be disingenuous at times because circumstances simply change due to conditions they cannot control. The key is to look closely at how they deal with change. Do they take a personal sacrifice, or are they perfectly fine with you absorbing the cost.” ~ Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker

4. Vague Answers

“When you ask a question and can see certain parts of it are avoided even after asking numerous different ways, this could be a signal that something isn’t right. You want to work with a partner who directly answers you no matter what you are asking. Otherwise, the partner might be secretive or dishonest.” ~ Serenity Gibbons, NAACP

5. Inflexibility

“In today’s world, when dealing with partnerships there has to be a win-win for both parties. If you’re looking to work with a vendor or partner who is not flexible, and provides little guarantee or assurance of success for both sides, then it might be a risky endeavor. If you’re talking to a vendor, you’re the customer and they should be able to accommodate all reasonable requests.” ~ Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

6. Lack of Responsibility

“No one is perfect 100 percent of the time, and sometimes we slip up and make mistakes. However, if your partner, vendor, or anyone else on your team can’t admit they were wrong and point fingers at everyone else, it’s likely not the best fit. You need team members who hold themselves accountable so your business can grow and succeed, and this type of behavior won’t get it there.” ~ Jared Atchison, WPForms

7. Trash-Talking Others

“If a prospective partner or vendor spends a lot of time trash-talking their competition or former clients, it’s a good sign that your partnership won’t work out. If this person is willing to trash-talk another business or client to someone they just met, they’re probably a difficult person to work with. Plus, if your partnership doesn’t work out, you’ll likely receive the same treatment.” ~ Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

8. Not Respecting Your Time

“My biggest red flag is if they do not respect my time. If they are late, miss a call, or reschedule a meeting last minute, then that tells me they probably aren’t a fit. Being lazy with one’s time means you don’t respect what they are doing and you really don’t care. I pride myself on never being late and I expect the same back.” ~ Colbey Pfund, LFNT Distribution

9. Lack of Enthusiasm

“If either you or your potential partner isn’t enthusiastic about a partnership, it’s likely a bad idea. A lack of enthusiasm can manifest itself as poor communication, cutting meetings and conversations short, or taking a long time to make decisions. A good partnership should generate excitement for both parties.” ~ Bryce Welker, The Big 4 Accounting Firms

10. No Focus on Mutual Success

“When there is a lack of focus on mutual success, then it’s going to be a one-way situation that is not conducive to a good partnership. They should be discussing benefits and goals from both points of view or it won’t work.” ~ Angela Ruth, Calendar

11. A Focus on Grievances

“A prospective business partner who talks excessively about grievances with past employers, colleagues, or partners is a cause for concern. Everyone does this to some degree, but a relentless focus on the negative is a red flag, a sign that perhaps the problem is not with the target of the complaints but the complainer.” ~ Chris Madden, Matchnode

12. Lack of Clarity on Deliverables

“If you’re talking circles around one another in trying to define deliverables, you may not ever be able to pin this person down to laying everything out in black and white. That can work out for a partnership outside of business, but when it comes to responsibilities and money, everyone deserves to have the same understanding of deliverables.” ~ Yaniv Masjedi, Nextiva

13. Rushing Things

“When a prospective lead is far too eager to get started, the odds are high that it will only get worse when you have a working relationship. These are often the nightmarish micromanagers who will do everything last minute on their end and expect you to finish things “ASAP” on Friday at 5:57 p.m.” ~ Karl Kangur, Above House

14. Increased Focus on Competitors

“If a meeting with a new vendor consists mostly of talk of their competitors, they’re most likely not confident in their own product or business. If they’re confident in what they’re producing, they’ll focus on themselves and what they can do to make it the best partnership possible.” ~ Andrew Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

15. Lack of References

“Any time I work with a new vendor, I always conduct background checks and check out references. If the company has a poor background check or/and can’t provide references from recent or current customers or partners, then I will move on.” ~ Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

Image: Depositphotos.com

The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.