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How much money are you planning to pull out of your company this year?

If you own your business outright, the decision is yours, but if you have one or more partners, things can get a little dicey, Jordan Dolgin says.

Mr. Dolgin is a Markham, Ont.-based lawyer who specializes in business law and he has seen many partners fall out. In one example he recounted, two partners had vastly different ideas about how much money they wanted to take out of their thriving business. One partner had a healthy appetite for the finer things in life and wanted to claw out most of the cash to fund his ever-growing lifestyle. The other wanted to leave most of the cash in the business to fund new projects and provide a safety net.

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Their difference of opinion escalated into an all-out war. They stopped talking and eventually couldn't be in the same room together.

Finally, the more conservative partner asked their banker to change their cheque-signing authorities so that both partners had to sign all company cheques. The move caused the bank to lose confidence in the business, and their credit line was frozen until the partners could work out their differences.

As with all marriages, it's better to size up your partner before you commit. Mr. Dolgin offers the following three ways to evaluate your potential business partner:

1. Go to lunch

Watch how your potential partner treats your server, and you will have a good idea of how he or she will treat your employees.

2. Compare your numbers

Talk up front and honestly about how you balance your needs for financial reward with your lifestyle. Once the business gets going and the profits start rolling in, how much money do you need to be happy, and at what point is an extra week's vacation more important than the next $10,000 level in personal compensation?

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3. Look in the parking lot

Compare your potential partner's current spending habits to yours. In particular, get a look at the car he or she drives. A car is the ultimate expression of the image we want to display to the world. If your potential partner is driving a 911, and you've got a sensible sedan, consider it a reliable bellwether of problems to come.

Special to The Globe and Mail

John Warrillow is the author of Built To Sell: Turn Your Business Into One You Can Sell . Throughout his career as an entrepreneur, Mr. Warrillow has started and exited four companies. Most recently he transformed Warrillow & Co. from a boutique consultancy into a recurring revenue model subscription business, which he sold to The Corporate Executive Board in 2008. He is the author of Drilling for Gold and in 2008 was recognized by BtoB Magazine's "Who's Who" list as one of America's most influential business-to-business marketers.

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