Being in a business partnership, aka a business marriage, will test you in every way possible. Yes, it has the potential to allow the two of you to really live your values and your mission and have a meaningful impact in the world, while giving you the flexibility to have it work with the rest of your lives. Your partner is able to bring to the business what you could never do alone. You can rely on each other to navigate all the obstacles and capitalize on the opportunities. You have the comfort of knowing its not only on you.
And so it can even be more disorienting when your working relationship hits a rough patch. When you feel confused, frustrated, inadequate or resentful, you need to be able to sometimes get away from the aggravations of it all, but with so many long hours together, it’s hard to get any relief without avoiding each other. Especially when you start to lose trust, life can start to feel overwhelming with no answer in sight. At those times, your business might stall too if the two of you can’t agree on what is needed to move the business forward, or if your team gets mixed messages or, worse yet, gets caught in the middle of the tension. And now you have your financial survival at stake, too.
If the excitement and honeymoon phase of jumping into business together has evolved into wondering if this is the right person for you, or whether you should be in business together, you may need business partnership coaching.
The Business Partnership Assessment
There will always some differences that won’t become apparent until you are in the work together, even if you had the foresight to do a very thorough exploration and analysis before committing to a business partnership. A great business partnership assessment considers the partnership strengths, skills, and resources to determine a good match in personality, values, goals, work style, contribution and commitment. If you have never done a business partnership assessment, or if you have more accurate information about how each of you work after being in business together for a period of time, business partnership coaching can help you dig down and explore a process that fits who each of you, the needs of your business, AND the needs of your relationship.
Common Issues in Business Marriages
In every partnership no matter how fabulous the fit, there will be conflict. A certain level of conflict is normal and to be expected, and that level might be more than you thought! You may find that you are each at odds about who does what task, when and how to invest/spend vs. save,how to approach working with contractors or employees, or how quickly to scale and the risks and sacrifices that are worth the result. Many times, the deeper issues of identity, mission, ego, survival, power, betrayal, and insecurity can get triggered in one or both of you resulting in arguments, disengagement and sometimes even sleepless nights.
The real question becomes- how well are you moving through and resolving these conflicts? Are you finding a pattern and rhythm that allows issues to be addressed and resolved? Are one or both of you going into shutdown mode? Are both of you beginning to resent the other person? Instead of digging yourselves, you might end up digging yourselves even deeper. Ignoring your process will not only tank your relationship, but it will also tank your business!
Is it Our Business or Our Relationship?
When the reality falls short of the dream, it can become overwhelmingly aggravating and disappointing. It is even more frustrating to divert time and energy away from the business and organizational functions you’re excited about so you can deal with these interpersonal issues. As in any important relationship, when you hit hard patches, the success of your relationship is dependent on how well you negotiate the conflicts.
Ideally, each partner has the ability to engage in those difficult discussions, constructively express themselves, openly listen to opposing opinions and priorities, defuse each other’s reactivity, and make and honor mutual agreements. If you both don’t have the skills, any issues between you now will continue to grow until you do address them, or worse, until you hit a breaking point and the dream business falls apart.
Steps You Can Take Now
Make a commitment to institute a regular partnership meeting every week. Find a time that works for both of you, put it on the calendar…
- check in with each other about how the partnership is working
- clarify and reach agreement on expectations
- acknowledge the value your partner brought to you and the business
- and raise and work through what hasn’t been going well,
- search for solutions to complex problems.
Through a regular structure like this, you can catch many problems before they mushroom. Not only misunderstandings and other communication problems, but issues that come out of misalignment around direction, problematic organizational processes, roles, and structure.
Determining If You Need Outside Help
If you can’t get your partner to participate or you’ve already tried this and your best efforts are not getting you the progress your business needs, it is definitely time to bring in a professional to helping you untangle the mess, get the partnership back on track and get back to the business of growing success and put the attention back where it belongs.
You have been trying and trying to get your partner to have important conversation about the business relationship and your attempts have lead you nowhere. You need a professional to untangle the mess and get the partnership back on track.
If you need help finding a Business Partnership Coach, you can read more about how I can help (here). I offer Business Partnership Assessments, as well as ongoing or intensive Business Partnership Coaching. I invite you to call me for a free 20-min phone consultation. I’d be happy to learn more about your situation and help you find the right person for you.