Business Partnership Advisor
Together, we can fix your business and partnership problems
Chris Reich, Business Luminary
YOU Did an Amazing Thing So Don’t…
Starting a business is one of the hardest things to do. You did it! Keeping that business going is an amazing feat. You are doing it! Making a profit in the business you started is tough. You are doing that too!
Business partnership tension is normal. It’s so normal that finding a partnership without tension is a real shocker. You have nothing to feel bad about. Partnership stress is natural when people’s lives are intertwined financially and professionally.
Don’t let a perfectly normal part of business mess up the amazing things you’ve done.
Partnership Tension IS Normal. You Are Still Awesome!
Have you ever disagreed with your spouse? What about that exceptional person you are dating? Of course, you have. No two people can ever agree on everything. Sometimes, disagreement comes out of the tension of being around each other for much of your day. We see perfect models of relationships in movies and TV. That’s fantasy and we know it but seeing people resolve their single argument and then live happily ever after sets a high bar in our deep psyche. When a partnership, personal or business, hits a rough spot it makes us feel as though we have failed. Not so!
Successful partners don’t have perfect relationships. They have processes that work for resolving differences. The only difference between you and someone you think has a perfect partnership is that they have a means to fix problems as they arise.
Let me give an example. Say you’ve worked hard to buy a nice car. You leave the Lexus dealership thrilled with your purchase. You decide to take a road trip. After driving a few hours, the engine dies. A light comes on that says “fuel empty.” What? How can this be? The car is brand new. What is wrong with your shiny and expensive new car? Obvious, right? Maybe my example is a little silly. Though my example is somewhat ham-fisted, the point is this. If you’ve never put gas in a car, you may not be aware of the process of keeping your new car running by making sure it always has fuel.
When the car gets low on gas, you have a process for making sure it keeps running. When your business partnership starts to run low, what’s your method for rejuvenating it?
I tell my clients that they need 2 pieces to fix their issues for the long haul. They need processes and definition. A good process to resolve tension is to establish regular sit down meetings with your partner. These meetings should be somewhat formal. Partners should meet at the office privately. I advise against meeting at a restaurant or bar. Partners need to be able to talk freely without being overheard. Meeting once a week for half an hour will diffuse tension and open transparency.
At your weekly meeting, each partner comes prepared to present what the other partner needs and wants to know. Review the financials for the previous week and month to date. Review any big sales or big expenses. Update each other on on-going projects. Be open to whatever your partner wants to know. Avoid accusatory questions like, “where were you yesterday at 2:00?”
Is a founder always available to help employees or customers? Are you sure? What’s your process for that?
Do you have a “dud” employee? What’s your process for correcting that? Do you both sit down with the employee?
Creating processes is the way to rebuild your partnership and prepare your business for success.
You are amazing! It’s very hard to start a business and to keep it going. It’s even harder to make money. You’ve done the hard part. Now it’s time to improve the way your partnership works. You’ve got this! I know because you are here looking for answers. Failure only comes when we stop looking for ways to improve.
Processes and Definition are the keys to making a partnership work. An outside party can introduce these ideas without raising the tension. Chris Reich, Partnership Adviser
What Is “Definition”?
Adding clear definition to your partnership will eliminate and prevent a ton of tension. Let me explain what I mean by “definition”.
Who is in charge at your business? If employees, including managers, need a decision, who do they ask? Do they come to you or your partner? If a customer has a problem, who makes the final ruling? Who makes sure that the books are up to date? Who makes sure the bills are paid on time? Who decides when it’s time to hire someone? Who makes the final hiring decision? Who makes the bulk of your sales? You want to discuss items like these and the million other things that come up in a typical day with your partner. Define who is ultimeately responsible for each item. And define what happens if one of you drops the ball.
Having a clear understanding of responsibilites will not only cut the tension, it will greatly improve the business. A lot of partnership problems come from partners assuming roles and feeling under appreciated. “I’m in the office all day handling problems while she is out in the field entertaining customers. I want to play golf 3 times a week too!” And she says, “He’s in the office until 2:00 and then he goes home. I wish I could work a half day!” I’ve heard variations of that a thousand times. When I ask about specific job responsibilities, the answer is usually vague. “We both kinda do what needs to be done while staying out of each other’s way. I hate to be in the office when she’s there.” Sound familiar? I have great news. This is easy to fix.
“I can’t stand being in the office when my business partner is there. We just can’t be around each other without getting into an argument.” That’s very dangerous for your business and you know it. Look, people who have the guts to start a business are amazing. That’s YOU. There isn’t a person in the world who knows everything about business. You’re still learning and so am I. Business Partnerships are something I know a lot about. Let me Teach U what I know.
You have done an amazing thing by putting up your money, credit, and whatever else to start a business. I congratulate you and your partner(s). Running in to the occasional rough patch is perfectly normal for a business partnership. People who start businesses are very strong personalities. They are bound to clash eventually. Having partnership issues doesn’t take anything away from your amazing accomplishments if you act before damage is done.
The two keys to fixing a business partnership are Processes and Definition.
Processes are protocols for solving problems and [always] improving work-flow. In the example given, I said that regular meetings with defined agendas help with tension. Setting up a process to make big decisions or to correct a recurring problem will help you get your partnership and your business back on track.
Definition means that we need to define who does what at the business. Define the responsibilities of each partner. Define the hours worked. Define how compensation is allocated. Wherever there is a problem between partners, we can create a process and define the responsibilities.
An outside business adviser can guide you through creating processes and definition without the emotional baggage that comes out when partners try to do this alone. A skilled adviser will help you define a process for creating new processes. Once you get back on track, chances are you’ll stay there with far less stress.
Think about it.
Chris Reich, Business Partnership Adviser
“Never forget how amazing you are. Having the guts to start a business takes a rare personality. You may struggle. You may work insane hours. You may not even be making much money today, but you will get there! In the meantime, you deserve RESPECT.”
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.