I recently did at talk to a local business group about what I called ‘The Discomfort Zone’. Basically it was about how to turn difficult conversations into successful discussions and let’s be honest, this is something that is relevant to all of us. I deny anyone to say that haven’t had a difficult conversation.
Shortly after doing the talk I spoke with a couple of clients about some difficulties each were experiencing in their own business and in particular in regard to their business partners and some frustrations they were personally having. There must be something in the water.
So it got me thinking about what you can do if you were to find yourself in this kind of situation. Now back when you first started your business, you probably imagined your partner was going to be the best thing since sliced bread. You had great ideas, gelled together so well. You were going to conquer the world, they were an indispensible asset, the Jay Z to your Beyoncé. The future looked great.
But as with all relationships the honeymoon period rarely lasts long (please – I am not being cynical – I’ve only just got married). But when you’re working together so closely, it’s no wonder there are going to be times when you have differences in opinion and actually that isn’t a bad thing. That’s part of the reason you started working together in the first place, you both bring something different to the business and each of you has areas of expertise and experience, the other doesn’t. Probably for the majority of the time this works in terms of bringing an exciting dynamic to the working relationship and how you bounce around ideas. But occasionally, a whole load of other problems can rear their heads.
I know the business owners I am lucky enough to work with are passionate, motivated, and want to take things to the next level. But what happens you’re your business partners just isn’t pulling their weight and showing the same determination as you?
So let’s go back to basics.
If they were an employee the process would be fairly clear-cut. You’ll hopefully have policies in place to tackle these sorts of issues head on. But when the problem is your business partner, things become a lot more complicated.
But I don’t want to blow things out of proportion. Take a step back and really think about the issues. It may all be down to a lack of communication between the two of you, and it’s very possible that an open and honest chat could clear the air, give you both an opportunity to revisit your expectations, and move forward with a mutual understanding of what needs to be done. Starting the conversation can be tough, but you’re both professionals, and burying your head in the sand isn’t going to help anyone. If you really can’t make this happen it might be worth thinking about bringing a mediator in to help facilitate that discussion, to make sure it happens.
If you’ve tried the reasoned approach and that hasn’t worked, then there may be a need for more drastic measures. Hopefully when you started out you put in place a written agreement outlining provisions for if and when this type of situation arose, and one option would be buying out your partner.
As a last resort, you could look at dismissing a fellow director, but you’ll need approval from more than 50% of any shareholders that you might have. If you’ve got to that point, make sure you check the relevant legislation, and I would strongly advice you to seek professional advice to make sure things don’t turn nasty.
Whatever option you go for, as with any issue the key is always to take action quickly. Dragging things out could have a serious impact on the business, the rest of your workforce, and even your own health and wellbeing. We all know these sorts of things can be unsettling and worrying, stopping us sleeping at night.
If you’ve found yourself in this situation with your business partner and don’t know what to do for the best, get in touch for a confidential chat. We’ll help you understand what your options are, and guide you through the process of deciding which route is best for you.