VERY FEW BUSINESSES are completely independent. Even as a primarily one-man show myself, I still rely to a great deal on partners for marketing, lead generation, even fulfillment of services.

It’s crucial to have the best people you can. Especially because you might have just as much business reliance on them as you would with employees, with far less control.

The trick is to align around your mission and values.

Some people are surprised to hear that, because we’d like to think that everything can be arranged in a carefully worded contract.

Contracts are important, of course, but the best contract is one that never has to be challenged or questioned because it simply represents the trusting relationship you already have. Developing that trust is far, far easier when you’re both headed in the same direction.

That direction? It’s your shared mission and shared values.

Suppose you’re working with a company who specializes in product fulfillment – shipping your products to your customers. Let’s say that your mission is to change the market not only through excellent product, but also with an extraordinary experience. That says a lot about your company’s values, and what kind of employees you’ll hire.

But that partner is an absolutely critical part of the customer experience. They might package things wrong. They might push back on customer complaints. They might try to squeeze an extra penny of profit at the customer’s expense.

If any of that happens, your mission is toast.

This particular example highlighted a partner who is involved with a central function of the company, but this dependence also happens with partners a bit less engaged. You’d better believe that I work closely with the folks managing my website and newsletter presence, because it reflects so deeply on how I engage with my clients.

In a way, you have to be as careful about finding the right partners for your business as you would a life partner.