Almost all business owners with business partners have conflicted relationships with those partners. They do not agree on the definition of valuable day-to-day business activities. They differ on the meaning of commitment to the business, and they do not respect or appreciate how the other demonstrates said commitment. They can also be very unkind to each other. An outsider looking in easily says, “Why are the two of you in business together?”
If you are like most entrepreneurs, you and your business partner united together for one of the following reasons:
- You were best friends
- You went to college together
- You had similar personalities
- You are family
- You needed investment money
- One had valuable relationships
- One had expertise the other did not have.
Now, years later (maybe months later), things are not working between the two of you. There is an absence of alignment that is increasingly frustrating for each of you, and that lack of cooperative agreement is hurting the business.
Values, Goals, and Definition of Commitment
In a successful business partnership, there must be alignment of values, goals, and the definition of commitment. Without these three things, there will absolutely be conflict, and you and your partner will often be faced with the question of “Who’s right, and who’s wrong?” How do you answer that question? Consider these case examples:
Reason for Existing
- Problem: One of you wants to capitalize on lucrative opportunities associated with a strategic certification that your company has invested in obtaining. The other wants to serve a market space that has personal relevance to him, yet the strategic certification has no value in that market. I guess the two of you didn’t really have this discussion BEFORE you decided to become business partners?
- Solution: Many businesses attempt to blend two unique business concepts or philosophies into one model. This will only work with compelling and marketable packaging. Each partner’s personal core values and drivers will always have a significant impact on business progress. Together, you must draw clear lines from your core drivers to mutually agreeable business outcomes.
Are We Making Money or Spending Money?
- Problem: Your business partner brought you in to develop and execute strategy for sales, marketing, and operations for the product he developed. Every business action that you design has the bottom line in mind. The business is making money, building the right relationships, growing a strong brand, and achieving measurable goals. Your business partner has a knack for making business agreements that will NEVER make your company a dime. His ‘initiatives’ are draining resources from substantive business activities, and they are hurting the company brand. What is the point of what he is doing? You cannot see the potential ROI.
- Solution: Communicate the consequences and costs of your partner’s business moves to him. However, see things through his eyes, and understand his driver. What does he need? What goals does he want to achieve? His needs may not match your needs or the business’s needs. Find alternate ways to fulfill those needs for your partner.
Status Quo or No?
- Problem: Business has been good – not great, but good – for a long time. Your partner is content with that, and he is not interested in these new ‘things’ you want to spend time and money doing. You are committed to bringing your business up to date, implementing the current marketplace practices and methodologies. However, your partner is pushing back, resistant to all things logical. What do you do?
- Solution: What is the win-win for each of you? What does your partner value? Show him how your ideas will give him what he cares most about, and he will then support your desired change.
Conflicts with your business partner will not go away on their own, if at all. Be intentional about creating working resolutions that keep your business steady and growing, while also keeping the peace between you and your business partner. Alignment of values, goals, and definition of commitment are key in maintaining this working dynamic.