Just like you’ll want to date a person before settling into a relationship, you’ll want to get to know your potential business partners before going into business with them. It makes no difference what your motivations are for wanting a partner, there are a few things you’ll want to do before embarking on a professional relationship.

Do a Background Check

Before you sign papers, shake hands or pop bottles of champagne, ask your potential partners for a list of professional references, business associates and former partners. Go to great lengths when it comes to due diligence in regard to your potential business partners. Keep your ears, eyes and instincts open for red flags, and be sure to check the person’s online presence as well.

Bring in a Lawyer

No matter how much you trust a person or how good you might feel about the future of your business relationship, it’s in everyone’s best interests to bring in a lawyer. While legal fees are likely one of the last things you want to have to deal with, they’re a necessary expense. Duties, goals, responsibilities, finances and every other aspect of your business should be put down in writing, looked over by everyone and approved by an experienced lawyer.

Have an Exit Strategy in Place

Because all business deals don’t work out no matter how much time, money and attention you pour into them, you’ll want to make sure you and your business partners have an exit strategy in place before going into business. Before you think you’re dooming your business to failure before you even start, know that an exit strategy makes an abundance of legal and financial issues easier when you take care of them now rather than later. While it’s likely something else you don’t want to think about, you should also make sure there’s a plan in place for when someone dies or becomes mentally unable to act as a partner.

Make Sure You’re Well Protected

While you’re working with a lawyer, make sure you’re legally protected as an individual against lawsuits and other legal actions. You can do this by creating an LLC or incorporating. Now you can rest easy knowing your home, assets and everything else you own is well-protected. As the business starts to grow and as your earnings, savings and other assets start to grow along with it, it’s a good idea to revisit your legal protection plan to ensure you’re still as protected as you think/hope you are.

Take every precaution possible when it comes to working with business partners. Even the very best of intentions can result in the very worst of outcomes.