Business Partnership Advisor
Together, we can fix your business and partnership problems
Chris Reich, Business Luminary
Tip for Talking with Your Business Partner
I was friends with my business partner for 10 years before we got into business together. Now we aren’t even friends.
As a Business Partner, You Wear Many Hats
Anyone who starts a business has many hats to wear. Sales, manager, accountant? You will wear them all in a day. If you are a business partner, you probably have even more hats in your collection. You might wear the hat of a friend, son, nephew, or some other relationship that predates your partnership. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of maintaining your relationship while operating as a business partner. It’s not easy.
What Was Your Role Before the Partnership?
Maybe you and your partner were good friends before you got into business together. But once you got the business going, things changed. There is resentment and mistrust. There is tension. When you try to talk, you can feel the tension rise immediately.
Even more difficult is the family business partnership. Ask anyone who joined a business with a parent or sibling. That’s rough. Imagine having to talk with your dad about cutting his pay! Yikes.
When having a business conversation with your business partner, stay in the role of partner for the duration of the meeting.
Image created by Chris Reich using Canva
We Wear a Hat When We Talk
With all these complex roles to play, which one do you take to your conversations with your business partner? Problems arise when we try to wear multiple hats or attempt quick changes in a single conversation. Switching roles causes confusion and can put you in a disadvantaged position. Let’s look at an example.
You are concerned that your partner is spending too much money and the business is suffering. You want to talk with your best friend and business partner about his spending so you start, “Did you get to the lake this weekend? We were going to go but I decided to work on the yard. By the way, do you think our sales are okay?” Worse yet, “I want to talk with you as a friend. I think you’re spending too much and the business can’t afford it.” In both cases, the approach seems safe and non-threatening. The problem is that you are not coming into the conversation as a business partner; you’re starting the dialogue as a friend and switching roles after you get rolling. That causes the other person to raise their radar for what’s coming. This is particularly dangerous in family business partnership conversations.
When a parent starts a business conversation acting the role of parent rather than as equal partner, it’s bound to cause imbalance.
When Having a Business Conversation, Wear Only Your Partnership Hat
You don’t have to be short with your partner but don’t mix your friendship with your business. Stick to the role of partner. Once the decisions are made based on sound business principles, you can switch to a friendship conversation. Just don’t jump back and forth. When you sit down to talk business, act like a partner. When we communicate in our other roles, we can be disadvantaged.
It may take some getting used to this but I promise you that it will help your business relationship.
“When you need to have a a conversation about business with your business partner, don’t confuse your friendship with your partnership.”
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.