Business Partners: Love them or leave them?

Many times when I talk to business owners about the problems in their business or even why their past businesses have failed, they have told me it was because of a difference of opinion with their business partner. It amazes me how often people get into business together without really talking through the direction they are going or the possible “what if” scenarios. Business professionals often get into business partnerships with each other because they each bring something different to the plate and they get excited about an idea. This can be a recipe for success or disaster.I have found that the most successful approach to a business partnership includes elements at the beginning of the business relationship as well as processes in place to nurture the relationship long-term. Below I’ve listed some things business professionals need to consider before entering into a partnership and what to do during that relationship to keep the partnership strong and on the right track.Before you enter into a partnership:

*Make sure you both have the same vision for where the business is going and how you’re going to get there. This should include how much of the business will be part of each of your individual lives. I’ve seen businesses fail because one partner wanted to take the business to a higher level that required a lot more of their time while the other partner wanted to keep the business small to spend more time with their family. I recommend you do a visioning exercise BEFORE you invest too much of your time and finances in the start-up phase. Like most entrepreneurs, you may want to jump right in and not spend time discussing a vision or priorities, but I promise it will benefit you down the line.

*Outline the roles and responsibilities each partner will have and what it will look like as you add on additional employees. You may have a good idea what each of you bring to the table, but it is important to document those roles and how they will change as you grow. When you are starting out is a good time to do this and then you can review on an on-going basis to ensure it is still relevant.

*Discuss each of your management approaches. Now is a good time to discuss your management styles before you have your first employee. Business partnerships often run into trouble when each partner has a different approach to working with employees.

*Get assistance from a good attorney and CPA. It is important that you have a legal partnership agreement in place to protect the partners and the business. A CPA can also help with the financial aspects of the business. Don’t forget the things that could come up that you never expect, for example one of the partners passing away. You also need to have an exit plan in place that documents what happens if one or both of you want to sell the business. A good attorney can help you think of all the important items to put in your partnership agreement so you don’t risk more legal fees and headaches down the road.

Existing partnership

Once you have the business established and your vision and legal documents are in place, it is important to continually work on your relationship with each other. I often see business partners fall into the trap of coexisting and not really working together to grow their business. Usually it is because they disagree about the future of the business or how to get there or they just haven’t found a way to work effectively together.

I have had great success using DiSC with business partners. The DiSC profiles give the partners a starting point to learn about each other’s work behavior and why they each act the way they do. It also helps by giving the partners action steps to follow. I particularly like using the comparison reports with business partners because it outlines the six areas that they need to focus on to build a stronger relationship. This gets the conversation going in a direction that is not offensive to either party but brings up the pertinent work behavior challenges.

It is important whether you are using DiSC or another method to really talk about the underlying issues and not ignore them. You are the leaders for your business and if you cannot find a way to work together effectively, you are risking the future of your business.

What are you going to do today to strengthen your relationship with your business partner?


About Andrea

Andrea Hoffer brings a unique perspective to consulting and training. A small business owner with 35 employees herself, she knows first hand the everyday challenges of motivating employees, exceeding customer expectations, and meeting business and revenue goals. Contact Andrea to help you improve the experience you offer your customers and employees.


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