Growing your business comes with many risks and rewards. The risks and rewards can be even more essential when the weight of the business or decision making is not solely on you but also a partner. Growing your business with successful partnerships is based on mutual trust and respect, but even the best of partners occasionally disagree on some aspect of managing the business. If these disagreements rise to the level of a serious dispute, it’s time to address and resolve the problem as quickly as possible. If you don’t, there’s a genuine risk that a bitter quarrel could threaten the business itself.
Of course, many CEOs and business owners reading this will think, It can’t happen with me and my partner. You assume the bond is strong—and it very well might be—but partnerships have foundered because an “insignificant” difference of opinion escalated into a dispute before anyone could stop it.
What do business partners argue about?
Frequently, it arises from the feeling that one partner is doing more than his or her fair share of the work. This sometimes occurs during a period when you are growing your business or an especially busy time of year (often with holiday stress thrown into the mix). Or one partner has arrived at a business-related decision the other partner doesn’t feel is right.
Whatever the problem, it’s vitally important to have a means of settling disputes before things get out of hand.
4 Tactics to Manage a Dispute with Your Partner (while growing your business)
1. Listen to what your partner has to say
An issue that comes up as a result of miscommunication can be resolved fairly quickly so you can continue growing your business if both partners listen to what the other is saying. A proven conflict-resolution technique involves each person agreeing to listen to the other’s position for a set period of time (generally 3-5 minutes), without interrupting or reacting. When both people have had their say, it’s entirely possible they’ll find a solution based on a clearer grasp of the individual complaints.
2. Set goals and ground rules for your discussion
Setting specific goals before discussions or negotiations begin is another useful approach. Answer these questions for yourself:
- What exactly do I want to happen as a result of this conversation?
- Should we address a specific complaint and move forward from there?
- Or is this an opportunity to resolve ongoing disputes once and for all?
It’s helpful as well to set ground rules for the discussion and to develop an agenda of distinct topics to be addressed. This can facilitate efforts towards compromise, so no one feels cheated or denied the opportunity to express their grievances.
3. Enlist the services of a neutral party
Some conflicts can’t be resolved by the partners alone. That’s when it’s helpful to draw upon the objective viewpoint of a neutral party—someone with no stake in the matter, but is skilled at mediating disputes.
Depending on the existing partnership agreement or the nature of the problem itself, consider enlisting the services of a business coach or professional mediator to get beyond the impasse and guide both parties to an agreeable resolution.
4. Take a fresh look at the business
While resolving a partner conflict, both sides may wish to re-evaluate the company’s structure, operations and business plan. New and potentially more profitable ways of running the business may emerge from the conflict-resolution process.
Whatever the issue, the best approach to growing your business when you have a partner dispute is to make a sincere effort to talk through the problem and come to a solution that preserves, if not strengthens, the partnership. Always keep the big picture in mind—the dream that brought you and your partner together in the first place, and how your partnership has proven so successful in the past.
This should guide you through most partner-related conflicts, and spur new movement towards growing your business.