Think about the most enjoyable business relationships you’ve had. I am going to bet that you shared similar values, expectations, and more.

I have been happily married for over 18 years, so I don’t know that much about online dating sites. About ten years ago my goalie in hockey starting dating someone and it quickly became serious (they have since married). Over drinks after a game I asked them where they met. They sheepishly exchanged glances and whispered “online,” like it was some dirty secret. Since then many of my friends have found their life partners online.

When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. People with similar interests, values, and expectations for the future have a much better chance at long term success. Using the tools available to screen potential partners for common values and interests before investing time in meeting them is more than reasonable.

When we start having honest conversations at the beginning of a relationship (and of course, throughout the partnership), I really believe it serves both parties. Let’s share our beliefs and values upfront and it will save everyone lots of future frustration.

When I started my journey as an entrepreneur, I was just so happy to find anyone that would actually pay me for my services. It was like, they are going to send a cheque? Whoo hoo, awesome. To extend the online dating metaphor, it was the equivalent of accepting a date with anyone who said yes, without reading their profile or thinking about what I hoped to get out of the relationship.

The problem was that I was not a good fit for many of my clients, and they were not a great fit for me. And what happens when you stay in a relationship that isn’t working for either side? Nobody wins.

Think about the instances in business where each side has a tendency to withhold information. In the hiring process, if both sides avoid big discussions like salary expectations or frank conversations about the company culture, it extends the process unnecessarily and nobody wins. Or when you are hiring vendors or consultants, not understanding how they work or how they bill, and having unclear expectations, can lead to disastrous results.

One of the most influential business books that had a major and immediate impact on my business many years ago was Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. It was a real game changer for me. In it, Port talks about developing your “Red Velvet Rope Policy.” Simply put, as a business owner, who are the clients you love working with, and who in turn love working with you? What traits do they have that you absolutely love and make them a great fit to work with? What are the deal breakers that clearly indicate a bad fit?

My goal here is not to waste a potential client’s time or mine, and that starts with getting to know each other a lot better. If we are not a great fit, no problem at all, we can continue our search for a more suitable partner. If we are, fantastic. Let’s start a conversation.

With that in mind here are my business turn ons and turn offs. I use this list to help me evaluate fit for potential clients, but a similar list can help you to determine potential fit for any new (or ongoing) business relationships:

Turn Ons:

Willingness to Try New Things
If you want new results you have to be willing to try new things—which also means that you have to be willing to fail from time to time.

They Love Their Customers and SHOW It
They actually have a meaningful relationship with their customer after the sale and genuinely care about their customer’s success. And they show it through their actions (not just their words).

They Invest in Their Employees
They care about employees and invest in them. That could involve a professional and personal development plan or coaching.

Turn Offs:

Too Many “Experts”
Don’t get me wrong, experience in an industry is great. But relying too heavily on expertise, or being unwilling to bring in fresh eyes can lead to a serious lack of new ideas.

Having too many card carrying members of the CYA Club, or overly rigid decision making processes is an innovation and creativity killer.

Arrogance & Abuse of The Customer
This is one that really gets my blood boiling. Treating customers like a line item in a budget, assuming that you always know what’s best for your partners, or acting as though you’re more important than others is a quick way to send me running for the door.

As you enter into new professional relationships and partnerships, whether it’s hiring a new team member, bringing on a coach or consultant, or working with a new vendor, I urge you to write your own list of must haves and deal breakers. And at the start of a new relationship, ask people to share their own ideas and lists as well. It’s a clarifying exercise that can save a lot of time and energy down the road, and build a foundation for more productive relationships.

What is really boils down to for me is the power of having honest conversations right from the beginning of the relationship. The cost of not being honest upfront is wasted time, energy, and money.

Whether you meet a new partner (in business or in life) the “old fashioned way,” or connect online, the power of laying your cards on the table right from the beginning cannot be overstated. Understanding how your values align (or don’t) right from the start means that you save time and energy down the road, and allows you to build relationships that work.