According to EMYTH, managing a business partnership may be the only thing more difficult than managing a business. Partnerships are hard for the same reason that any relationship is hard.
In my coaching, I often work with companies that have partners. Sometimes, I may deal with only the top person, typically the owner. Other times, I deal with multiple players. This could be two partners that are not related OR it could be a father (mother)/son (or daughter), or a husband/wife.
No matter what the relationship of the partners, I do often feel like a marriage counselor. When there’s a disagreement, I listen to both sides and try to guide the partners accordingly. While I use logic and proven business practices, often there’s the emotional side that is much more difficult to deal with.
It takes diligence and work to bring together personalities, communication styles and ideals. And if you want your partnership to serve your business—rather than hinder it—you need to strengthen the relationship upon which your partnership is built.
Through EMYTH, I’ve come to recognize that, whatever the makeup of the partnership, the major root to all business issues is the same – a lack of alignment. If partners don’t share the same values and vision—which we call The Strategic Objective—or have the same goals for the company, it prevents progress. In short, lack of alignment gets in the way of growing the business.
Easy enough to understand, but not as straightforward to resolve. Just like in a marriage or friendship, partnership needs a sincere commitment to good communication if it’s going to succeed. And that takes hard work, but the impact it will have on your business is worth it.
Here is my first tip for building better communication and creating alignment so you can make your business partnership work – Define Your Independent Roles:
For some partnerships, the trouble begins here. You don’t even know where your job starts, and your partner’s job ends. Each partner having their own role(s) and responsibilities is not only foundational to your day-to-day organizational strategy, it ensures that your partnership survives as your business grows.
Define your job. You and your partner have different strengths; sit down together and write down those individual strengths, what you’re each good at—and not good at. And most importantly, decide who’s going to be in charge. Who’s the CEO? If one of you is passionate about the company’s strategic vision, while the other prefers the high-level management of the business, the choice is obvious -defining the strategic vision will always be the CEO’s job.
I know this can be a sensitive decision. Passing the CEO role to a partner can feel like giving up a stake in the business and stepping into that role can feel like owning too much of it. But choosing one CEO is about bringing clarity to your partnership—and everyone that works for you. It doesn’t change your ownership of the business, just how you can best contribute to its growth.
Stay tuned for more tips on making your partnership work. As always, please reach out to me for a free session on growing your business, or marital advice…LOL!
PS: Thanks to Adam Traub, EMYTH’S Coaching Delivery Manager for input on this BLOG. Also, as an FYI, in my career, I have had a number of partners, including my father and my father-in-law. I’ve also had traditional partners, some better choices than others. Plus, I’ve worked alongside my brother, my wife, and my three sons. I know firsthand the real-world challenges and can help you.
PSS: As far as marital advice, I am happy to add that my wife and I have a terrific marriage, now in its 45th year!