6 Unique Approaches to Choosing Friends and Business Partners

My dad once said, “If you are the smartest person amongst your friends, you are not very smart.” What he meant by this was that a smart person keep friends who are smarter than him. He went on to tell me a story about how he started his first business in his teens. He had been working with his father for a while but felt it was time to go out on his own.

On one of my grandfather’s weekend trips, he moved out because he was too scared to do it while Grandpa was in town. By that time my father had figured out what business he wanted to start and had done all the research he needed. He later spoke to his father who unwillingly agreed. In about 3 years, my father had a profitable business, two cars and was very content as a 22 year old. His only problem was that he felt he was not advancing fast enough. He was doing better than most of his friends and he felt there was more.

One of his buddies had been recommending that he move to a new neighbourhood, so he finally acquiesced and relocated. My father tells me that the decision to relocate changed his life. He said his new neighbourhood was full of young, upwardly mobile professionals who were ambitious to boot. One thing led to another and before he knew it, he was invited to the local Full Gospel Men’s Fellowship. He said he had never seen so many zealous and successful believers in his life. They had more than he did and yet they were more engaged in the spiritual things in life. He was challenged to give and contribute more to the world through that season of his life. He still credits much of his early success to having friends who were more developed spiritually, mentally, socially and financially than he was. The smarter his buddies were, the better the conversations he got to engage in and the more challenged he was to live a value driven life.

Many of us keep friends based on familiarity and experience. Why is she your friend? “I have known her since we were little.”, “He really listens to me when I talk and he also loves video games.”  These answers are good but incomplete. A better reason to keep a friend is to keep people who are going in the same direction as you are at least spiritually and mentally. The person’s proximity to your home and business are or minor relevance. For example, a childhood friend who laughs at your dreams without offering good alternate suggestions can be an acquaintance but not a friend. A friend should be someone concerned with your progress in life. You want the kind of person who is moving forward and does not want you to be left behind. You want the kind of person who will recommend books, seminars, sermons and courses. The friend who will correct any anomalies in your value system is the best kind of friend. When a person bribery, favoritism or any behavior that is not consistent with the Bible, you should reconsider your criteria for friendship.

Acquaintances are many but friends are usually few.

How to pick friends and partners that will prosper you

1. Find out what the person’s vision is

A person who does not know where they are going will either move slowly in life or go quickly in the wrong direction. I usually prefer having people who think bigger than I do. If you already have a friend or business partner who is not sure of their vision, do your best to help them get on the right road and to start thinking right. 

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2. Pick people who are going in the same direction as you are

If you are planing to start your own business, find friends who have the same dreams or have already started theirs. A friend whose ambition is to climb the corporate ladder may be useful in other scenarios but not when you need to make some critical decisions. Before I started my own business, I worked as an intern. I quickly realized not everyone would be able to help me on my journey. I would hear stuff like “if we all start businesses, who will be an employee”. The only people who said this to me were those who had never started a business. There is nothing wrong with being an employee unless it is not your God-given assignment. For me, it wasn’t, so I found people who had taken the path I was planning on pursuing.

3. Pick people who are not easily impressed

When I was a teenager, I had a friend (let’s call him Joseph) who never found anything impressive. Many of our other friends said this was a sign of arrogance since Joseph was not impressed by the money, cars and clothes most of ours were drooling over. I never understood this until we got to college. I found out Joseph’s father was a millionaire. In his home, the conversations were usually about things that were higher than the average teenager’s ambitions. Today, I constantly look out for people who are not easily impressed so I can listen to them. This is a good heuristic for picking employees and business partners. If your business partner wants to make his first million dollars and retire at 35, he may not be the right fit for a person who wants to provide value for billions of people and receive billions of dollars a year. At some point, your goals are bound to clash. In addition to this, stay away from partners who over celebrate little achievements. A colleague once had a partner who would do anything for a celebrity. He would go as far as giving away free products to anyone who the media recognized as a celebrity regardless of the implications to the business’ bottom line.

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4. Pick people who act the same regardless of their audience

If all your closest friends/partners were in the same room, would you have to pretend to support certain views or opinions? If you are against something but have to pretend you are not when before certain people, then your moral character is weak. That is really another way to say you are a hypocrite. No one should assume you believe something you do not just because you want to please someone.

5. Pick people with high moral standards

I was considering a collaboration with an old acquaintance from high school. I was planning on going over to his office but decided to speak with him over the phone first. He told me how his business had been prospering recently and a few minutes into the conversation, he said “you know in this country, you have to pick a political side and take care of the right people financially. That is what we have been doing.’ It’s safe to say I knew we could never work together because I do not believe anyone can build a globally relevant business by doing business based on political connections and palm greasing(bribery). He called it gratuity but it was really corruption.

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6. Most importantly pick a person who has a high reverence for God and loves Jesus.

I am not saying you should only pick religious people to do business with. I don’t think it’s wise since a believer is supposed to be a light to the world. We are to influence the world with the love and power in us. Separation is when you are in the midst of worldly people but do not act or think in the same manner as they do. A person who respects God and loves Jesus will be more concerned about pleasing God than men. This combination of values will guide this person to usually do things with the best intentions in mind. Once I tried to partner with someone who had a habit of insulting preachers online. I tried to overlook that since I needed a technical partner. A few days before we could sign an agreement, I asked him about what his thoughts were on money and I quickly realized I was setting myself up to partner with someone who would not make the best financial decisions based on his belief system. In my experience I find a person’s belief system permeates everything they do.


My thoughts on how to choose friends and financial partners in this article deals only with the soft issues. In the case of partners, technical competence is very important. Just because someone is your rich cousin, does not make them a good business partner. Interestingly, good friends produce more good friends since like minded people usually flock together. Do you have any insights or experiences to avoid when picking friends and partners? Share with us.

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