Business Partnership Advisor
Together, we can fix your business and partnership problems
Chris Reich, Business Luminary
Business Partners Must Agree to Agree
The most successful partnerships I have ever seen have one thing in common: The partners long ago made a commitment to always agree to agree. ~ Chris Reich
The Key to a Successful Partnership
It’s not easy, especially at first, but if you make an agreement with your business partner that you will ALWAYS reach agreement on ANY business item that comes up, no matter how strongly you both feel and no matter how far apart on an issue, your partnership will thrive.
Easy to Say, Hard to Do
Not really. It’s very easy if partners release their egos and work for what’s best for the business. What if you can’t reach agreement on what’s best for the business? If that’s the case, there is something wrong with your decision-making process. Actually, it your discussion process that needs work. If your partner disagrees with you, ask yourself if you truly understand the entirity of your partner’s position. Are you defending your position or sincerely trying to understand his? Do the exchanges sound like, “I get that but…”?
Two happy partners because they agreed to agree.
I know it’s hard to do, but it’s worth it.
The Discussion Process Is Important
When you can’t find agreement with your business partner, the problem is in the process, not the partners. Assuming you haven’t gone into business with a total idiot, you both probably want the same things for the business. You want success. You want sales. You want to make more money. Maybe you want to build a balance sheet and sell the business.
Let’s assume that the partners don’t want to harm the enterprise. Can we agree on that? If so, then why do you have a difference on a given issue? There are two reasons that partners can’t agree on a key decision. Again, I assume that the partners are rational and fairly intelligent. Under that assumption, the two reasons are:
- There is an incomplete understanding of either the central issue or each other’s position
- The difference is so minor or indeterminate that is doesn’t matter which one wins
The first reason is self-explanatory. There is a lack of understanding. The second might not be too obvious. I often hear it like this, “Either way, we’ll be fine if it flops and have a big win if it succeeds.” The key is in the words, “either way”.
In the discussion process, I encourage partners to ask questions. Don’t just try to sell your position. Don’t push your position. Try to understand your partner’s position. You cannot understand without asking questions. I attend so many meetings with partners throwing around accusations and asserting their positions and yet rarely asking a single question. Not even the most basic, “why do you feel so strongly about this?” ASK QUESTIONS.
Flip a Coin
What should you do if you’ve talked it through and asked questions and you still can’t come to agreement? Do what the most successful partners do. Flip a coin. Seriously.
Think about it. I’m using a 2 partner situation for my example. If you both want wants best for the business, if you respect each other, and trust each other yet cannot decide between two positions, it probably is a coin toss. What matters? Who wins or the health of the partnership?
I know partners who operate this way. It works. Every partnership that has agreed to always reach agreement is extremely successful. Every single one.
If you’ve talked through the issue and still are at odds with your partner, keep talking. Ask questions. Sincerely seek to understand. If you still cannot agree, flip a coin. Accept fate’s decision. Your business will be be better off if partners are in accord than if the dominant partner always prevails. Guaranteed.
“Flipping a coin sounds like a crazy way to make a major decision but it works as well as any other method when partners can’t decide.”
When the business partnership breaks down, the darker sides of the personalities come through. A dominant partner turns into a bully. A person who does not do well with conflict will withdraw. As the bully gets more aggressive, the pacifist withdraws further. Eventually, the bully gets so angry they are ready to lock the other partner out. The pacifist quits coming in. The next blowout is over money. The course is as logically predictable as what will happen to your car if you hit the highway with no oil in the engine. It will get louder and louder until the engine seizes.
I recommend that partners talk through a specific issue and then draft an agreement (called a resolution) that sets a policy. You can keep this in a binder to serve as amendments (or foundation) to your Partnership Agreement. In this post I’ll explain how to talk about things that bug you with your partner and how to draft a binding resolution to fix the problems.
Unless you are in some sort of political business, you should keep politics out of your establishment completely. Of course, you have freedom of speech, but we are in very contentious times and displays of political or religious positions might be off-putting to to your customers.