There are many advantages to forming a business partnership. Having a partner, especially one with a different skill set from your own, allows each owner to focus on the areas that they are best at. Partners also help keep each other motivated and accountable, and the synergy that can be developed with the right partner puts the business in a better position to grow and thrive.
The major challenge of course with having a business partner is that you are bound to have differing viewpoints on some of the issues that you will have to deal with. As with any close relationship, disagreements like these are unavoidable and they are inevitable at times. The important thing is not avoiding disputes, but rather how you handle these disputes when they arise, so you can prevent them from turning into full-blown conflicts.
Business partnership conflicts can result in major operational setbacks, and in the worst cases, they can even jeopardize the future of the business. However, it does not have to be this way. There are steps you can take to head off costly conflicts and/or to effectively deal with them when they happen:
- Draft Detailed Partnership and Operating Agreements at the Start
One of the best ways to significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of conflicts is to develop a good set of partnership and operational documents ahead of time. Doing this will help clarify the partners’ expectations of each other, their roles in the business, workloads, obligations, etc. These documents can also cover areas such as what decisions can be made solely and which ones must be discussed between the partners, dispute resolution methods, and buyout provisions.
The best time to draft your operating agreements is before the business launches. But even if that ship has already sailed, it is never too late to get these types of agreements hammered out. If you are not comfortable or sure how to do this on your own, consider bringing in an outside business mediator to help you set them up.
- Create a Plan for Diffusing Conflicts Before They Start
As you develop your partnership and operating agreements, you should also plan for how you will deal with disagreements and keep them from getting out of control. For example, if you and your partner have a dispute over how you want to spend the marketing budget and the conversation is starting to get heated, it might be best to table the topic for a while until you are in a better state of mind to discuss it.
- Do Not Take Partnership Disputes Personally
Assumptions and misunderstandings are some of the most destructive forces in any type of relationship. When people run into a disagreement, it is not uncommon to rush to judgment and take things personally, especially if the issue is important to you. This is another instance in which it can be helpful to walk away for a while, calm down, and try to see your partner’s point of view. Stay focused on the bigger picture and keep in mind that disagreeing with your idea or viewpoint does not necessarily mean that your partner is taking a personal shot at you.
- Use Active Listening to Air Out Disagreements
“Active listening” is a technique that is often helpful in resolving partnership conflicts. Active listening means agreeing to listen to someone speak for a set period of time without interrupting or reacting, usually for around three to five minutes. This technique allows each partner to cool off and hear the other’s point of view, and it also helps make people feel that they have been heard and that their viewpoints are valid.
- Do Not Be Afraid to Seek Outside Help
There are times when conflicts with business partners get to the point where they cannot seem to resolve them on their own. When this happens, the best way to help get the conflict resolved may be to call in a neutral, third-party mediator. Business mediators are professionals who have extensive experience and expertise handling various types of partnership disputes.
Your mediator will most likely have dealt with your situation before (or something similar), and they will know the best way to approach the conflict and help you develop a peaceable and workable resolution that both partners can live with. They might also be able to offer some out-of-the-box solutions to enhance your business that you and your partner may not have known about and/or considered.
Contact AMS for Help with Your Business Partnership Conflict
If you and your business partner are involved in a dispute and you have reached a standstill, a fresh outside perspective could be very beneficial in helping you forge a breakthrough. At AMS, we have several decades of experience helping others who have faced similar challenges to yours. To find out how we can help you, message us online or call our office today at (856) 669-7172 for a free consultation.