What to Do If Your Business Partnership Is Not Working
It has been said many times – A business partnership is a lot like a marriage. They both start out with each person believing he has the same expectations and dreams as the other person. And they both fall apart when the real expectations and dreams of one individual are very different from what the other individual first assumed.
A business relationship is usually started with the partners discussing how the business is going to work (i.e. sales, production, product, quality, startup costs). It rarely includes how the relationship is going to work (i.e. division of management decisions/duties, leadership styles, who is disciplining employees and how, long term financial payouts, conflict resolution).
This is why problems start, usually leading to the partnership ending in bitterness. But, it does not have to be that way. No matter how many partners your company has there are steps you can take to create a functional, successful ownership, rather than a dysfunctional, failing one. Here are 3 places to start.
Start Rowing Together
Why are you in this business and what do you want to get out of it? Each person should be able to answer this question in detail, with examples and time frames. You cannot plan for and work together to meet people’s expectations if you do not know what they are. This must be an on-going conversation because people’s situations and needs change over time.
Your individual goals for what you want out of the business can be different, but your company specific objectives and methods should be the same. A business fails every day because the partners were not able to set up a working relationship where everybody was getting most (not all) of what he wanted. The idea is to move forward, not go in circles or backward.
Disagreements happen in any relationship, even the best of them. The key to a good partnership is the ability to work them out. This requires each party to take responsibility. What is your part in the problem? How are you going to fix it and by when? Keep in mind an old saying – There’s your side, my side and then the truth.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. You bring both to the table, as does your partner. You can agree to work together and maximize each other’s strengths to improve your business, or you can tear each other down for your weaknesses and fail. This step can be hard for a lot of people. A third, neutral party is often required to work out old problems and help create ways to minimize new ones.
A working partnership holds everybody accountable, especially the business owners. It is easy to point fingers and blame other people for your company’s problems. Are you willing to be accountable for your behavior? For what you say and what you do or do not do? A good leader expects to account for his actions.
Effective business partners have defined roles and jobs. They understand they each are responsible for certain tasks, outcomes, and duties. Each person knows that if he does not perform them satisfactorily, there will be consequences. The number 1 reason partnerships (and businesses) fail is that owners give themselves a free pass when it comes to their own behavior. Therefore, this is another area where a neutral, third party can be particularly helpful.
Some business partnerships go well, a number of them just limp along, and others end very badly. Give yours its best chance for success by following these steps. And remember: Perfect partners do not exist – you included.