Having a business partner is like having a spouse. You both brought experience, drive and love to the union, and that chemistry is often what keeps it going.
And then there are those days when you just want a divorce.
While breaking up is common among business partners as companies mature, sometimes you want to stay together for the sake of the kids...er, the customers and employees.
As with any relationship, nipping problems in the bud as soon as they arise is almost always the best option. Doing so helps avoid constant arguing, anger and resentment – and well as irreversible damage to the business and your relationship.
If you’ve made a decision to try to salvage the partnership, consider the following to rekindle that business spark -- before you do or say something you’ll regret and sour the relationship for good.
Be clear on your goals. Often, when in an argument, we focus on the petty stuff. It’s more important to be heard, to be right and to make sure the other person is proven wrong. This isn't constructive and will only keep you arguing. If your goal is to come to a resolution, then stop being petty. It really doesn’t matter whose right and whose wrong, does it? This isn’t the playground sandbox so stop acting like it is. Instead, focus on what is important: Do you want this partnership to survive because there is a business opportunity to seize? Is there a creative place both of you want to get back to? Focus on the endzone and get on the same playbook.
Where did you go wrong? It’s very easy to decide where you’re right, but few people are willing to consider where they’re wrong. You can’t control whether or not your partner does this too, but someone has to rise above and move you both forward toward a solution. Do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes coming to terms where you went wrong. In most of these disagreements, you will find you are both right and you are both wrong. Even if you can’t come up with anything substantial that you’ve done to lead to this situation, own the small stuff you did. Perhaps you raised your voice or said something seemingly innocuous that insulted your partner. Be critical of your actions, and fess up.
Stay professional at all costs. Sure, you may feel this is easier said than done, especially if your partner continues to push your buttons. But buttons can’t be pushed if they don’t exist, and chances are you know your partner’s buttons as much as he knows yours. Leaving your emotions at the door will benefit you both and the situation. This is, after all, a workplace, so you want to think strategically, for yourselves, your employees and your business. The objective is to take as much of the emotion out of this disagreement as possible. If you find yourself losing it when interacting with your partner, consider taking a time out and resume the conversation when you’ve both had time to cool off. Remember, you have an obligation to treat your employees with respect and dignity. Those rules apply to your business partner, as well.
Avoid gossiping. Whatever you do, don’t drag others into the mud with you. That goes for clients, employees, other partners and board members. If you need to get this off your chest or bounce your feelings about it off of someone, select someone outside your organization, such as a family member, friend, mentor, coach or other confident. You want to refrain from adding more poison to your organization. No good can come of that. Even if your partner is spreading garbage about you, lowering yourself to that level will make you both look bad and leave the issues unresolved.
Listen! Listen! Listen! Are you listening? This is something that most people have a problem with. We are more prone to talking so much that we forget to listen to what the other person has to say. In trying to repair a relationship, letting the other person know you’re willing to hear him is half the battle. Remember, just because he says something you disagree with, doesn’t make him right and you wrong or his perception true and yours untrue. You can agree to disagree and still find a way to move on. But you have to be open to constructive listening, to letting him talk without interrupting or arguing.
Deal with one relationship at a time. If you have more than one strained partner relationship, do yourself a favor and deal with each individually as best you can without meshing them together. When too many people are involved in one disagreement, folks have a habit of taking sides. It's bad enough when you are battling one partner. When they gang up on you, it is even worse. You are more likely to get resolution through maturity and professionalism if you resolve issues with each person individually.