Kathleen, you do not mention how large your business is or what kind of business it may be, but as a Business Broker, I can tell you that in the vast majority of cases, the partnerships we sell list failing relationships between the partners as the biggest reason for selling the business. That is to say that most partnerships we see have failed, one way or another. In some cases, it is because one partner feels that the other is taking advantage of him/her. In other cases, it is because one of the partners questions the honesty of the other. Still others find that the partners see the business going in different directions. Because you are leaving the area, the partner left behind – if he/she is truly an equal partner – may feel that he/she is doing all the work and you are getting a large portion of the profit. This, and to some degree can be solved by having an extremely well defined understanding between the two of you in advance, and without question put in writing! One of the biggest problems in any partnership is that they frequently do not have everything well spelled out in advance, in writing! Emphasize "writing"! I am doing some consulting right now for a friend who is himself, facing a dilemma with a failed partnership. They did not reduce the agreement in writing. My friend's miserable with the relationship, does most of the work and sees a fair minority of the profits; but because there is no exit strategy in writing, he wants to sell and his partner does not. It is a miserable situation that will ultimately lead to a lawsuit.
The three characteristics I would look for in such a partner would be: 1. That person's knowledge of your business in particular, and business in general. 2. That the person have something invested in the business and has continuing risk involved. For example, if you have a lease for your office and you have pledged personal guarantees for the lease, the partner should also be on the hook, should you not be able to complete the term of lease. If the partner has no risk, there is less for him/her to care about in terms of ensuring that the business continues to succeed. 3. That the partner be viewed as honest. And frankly, I don't know how you measure that in advance, except to get others involved who can vouch for this person. If you are not there, you have no idea whether all the money is being accounted for. Or whether some of the expenses are actually going into your partner's pocket. If the business does not take in a lot of cash, if most payments are made by credit card for example, this radically reduces the chances of this kind of questionable activity occurring. Just because they are a partner does not mean that they would not still from you. This sounds very cynical, but it is also a very common, real-world experience.
partners can be found anywhere. If you know any attorneys, I would contact them and ask for referrals. The same with CPAs. Both of these people may have the advantage of having worked with one of the people that they might refer to you, so they have potentially seen that person's business activity in action. Friends and family are another way to go. Advertising? Not my ideal method of seeking out a partner, particularly if you are in a situation where time may be of the essence.
Certainly, I am not telling you that all partnerships end up as a disaster. What I am telling you is that you need to be extremely careful with your selection of a partner, the planning of how to construct such a partnership, reducing at all to a formal agreement, and making sure that you have an adequate exit strategy as part of that formalized document.