If There Is Tension In Your Partnership You Must Do This
This article is about partnership tension. Taxes will be dealt with in future articles. Indeed, problems with your business partner add a lot of stress to your life. The first step is to put things in perspective. Thus,
When people call me about partnership issues, they tend to think their problem is either far less or much worse than it is. That’s one reason why it’s good to get an outside perspective on your situation. I’ve had people tell me, “he steals from the business but I’m not too worried because he doesn’t take much.” Wow, that’s pretty serious in my book. It can be fixed but let’s not underestimate the situation.
On the other hand, I’ve been told, “she comes in 15 minutes late every day. It’s not fair to me because I work more hours. I feel used. This has to stop or I’m out.” Hum? The problem isn’t that bad and can be fixed. This might mean setting up some rules. It might also mean that the partner has a personal issue that is causing her to be late every day.
It’s important to get things in perspective by getting neutral, outside advice.
#2 Don’t Cut the Red Wire!
You’ve seen the movie. There’s the bomb and our hero must decide which wire to cut to defuse the bomb. Cut the wrong wire and…KABOOM!
You don’t want KABOOM! So don’t cut wires.
In other words, don’t do anything that might set off the bomb. Telling your partner that they must shape up or you are out, might cause a flare-up that cannot be contained. Remember, your partner is an equal. Making demands may trigger a response rooted more in anger than reason.
Don’t make threats. Don’t say anything about quitting. Don’t start throwing out what you’d take for your share unless you are serious. What you say in haste could very well be binding in court.
#3 Try to Understand
Stop and think: Is there something going on that might be causing your partner’s behavior? I’m not saying that you should look for excuses for your partner, but it is wise to think about any possible cause that might be making your partner act differently than they used to. 15 minutes late every day? That came up recently in one of my cases. It turned out the partner had to take her child to school every day because her husband was put on an earlier shift and could no longer drop the child off at school. She didn’t bring it up because she was embarrassed. (Husband was demoted)
I’m not saying that everything should be overlooked. But it’s important to understand the drivers if you want to fix the problems.
#4 Make Notes
Sit down and write up your thoughts. Make sure nobody sees them but you!
It often helps to enumerate the things that are adding tension to the business. Be specific. If you do reach out for advice, it will help you to have notes. This gets past the “and another thing…” phase. We can talk through the issues and get to concrete things that will help you.
#5 Talk with an Experienced Advisor
I do not intend #5 to be self-serving. When you have stress in your partnership, you need an outside, neutral perspective. Your friends and family will always side with you and that’s good. But, you want unbiased advice when it comes to the action plan to fix or improve your partnership.
Neutral? Aren’t I on your side? I start by taking the side of your business. The business is what makes it all possible. The business is the golden asset. I look for solutions that keep the business from unraveling. If I identify a seriously lop-sided problem when the other partner is a thief or acting in some unethical fashion, it’s not unheard of for me to take a side and help a partner get out from under a bad relationship. Most of the time, if we all work together we can fix the problems.
Unlike an attorney, who is on a side, by helping everyone work on fixing the problem rather than choosing sides in a fight, I can help you at far less cost than a legal battle. If you go to an attorney, your partner then needs an attorney. The business needs an attorney too. Think about the fees that 3 lawyers can generate! My rates are generally about 1/2 the cost of 1 lawyer. And not only will I help settle the tension, I’ll help improve your business.
This isn’t a long-winded commercial for me. It’s practical advice for you. You are reading this because you want advice, right? Start with a FREE consultation. The steps above will help you get clarity but a conversation will bring you relief. Thank you for reading this.
When business partnerships go bad, very often someone wants out. That starts one of two possible processes. The business enters Wind Down and begins the process of closing or the partners start discussing a Buyout.
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.