Today’s guest post is from Bev Sninchak, a veteran freelance writer with 16 years of experience producing content for both print and online publications. She writes about many subjects, from managing your online reputation to mastering social media strategies. She lives with her husband, kids, and a menagerie of pets in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

When you start a company with another person, you are connected to them personally, professionally and financially. Are you sure you know everything about your soon-to-be business partner?

Here are five reasons to check into your potential business partner’s reputation so you can avoid unexpected pitfalls.

1. Criminal Background

If you plan to start a business with an individual, it’s a given that you want to be sure he or she isn’t a criminal—or worse, a felon. You wouldn’t want to place your company in the hands of a known embezzler or con artist, so it’s paramount that you check your would-be partner’s criminal record.

If you fail to investigate your partner and don’t uncover a hidden villainous background, you’re not only risking the personal safety of you, your employees, and your customers—you’re gambling with your livelihood and financial future as well.

2. Professionalism

To succeed in business, it is essential to present yourself in a respectable, mature way. Otherwise, clients and other businesses will shy away from all interaction. The result is a loss of income and reduced profits.

Does your business partner conduct herself in a professional way? Is her communication polished and skillful? Facebook photographs portraying a disheveled, drunken partier at last year’s Christmas party may be humorous to sorority sisters, but it doesn’t instill confidence in people who mingle with the person on a daily basis in your profession. To attain a good outcome in business, one must look, dress and act the part. Be sure your partner does.

3. Honesty

Maybe your potential business partner isn’t necessarily a criminal, but that doesn’t mean he’s honest either. By checking the person’s online interactions with others, you can get a sense of how honest the person is. Did he tell his college roommate he was borrowing money to help an ailing relative, only to be discovered later that he used the money to take a trip to Cancun?

Dishonesty is a yes or no proposition, regardless of how small the lie may be. If your partner conned former friends out of small amounts of money, won’t he be more tempted to shave extra profits off the top for himself if the monetary reward is even greater? Just because he wasn’t caught for his transgressions doesn’t mean he wasn’t breaking the law.

4. Trustworthiness

If a person isn’t trustworthy in their personal life, chances are you shouldn’t trust them with your business assets. By tracking a partner’s online reputation and gauging her trustworthiness, you can decide if you can depend on them to do the right thing when work decisions are on the line. Does the person keep her promises to deliver a professional result every time? Does she perform in a credible manner, despite trying circumstances or unforeseen obstacles? If you can’t trust her to act with integrity in online ventures, then it’s a fair bet you can’t trust her to oversee or manage the core aspects of your shared company objectives.

5. Personality

In business, personality matters. How a partner interacts with clients, employees and management can mean gaining contracts or losing them. If your future partner is brusque and dismissive or doesn’t understand the finer parts of interpersonal communication in a professional setting, it could hurt your company’s financial standing and make negotiating with others a Herculean task in the future.

Online interactions leave clues as to a person’s behavior, personality and social skills. Is your partner approachable, pleasant and helpful? How does he treat those who are beneath him in social standing or the professional hierarchy? How you answer these questions after investigating his online interactions can mean the difference between a successful business pairing and a disastrous one.

Partnering with the wrong person in business can lead to professional embarrassment and potentially lead to future legal issues. To protect yourself and the future of your company, thoroughly investigate any future business partners to dismiss probable risk and remove any lingering doubts.