Avoid Business Partner melt down

Business Partners TalkingI had a call from a director of a business that I occasionally provide with mentoring to ask me to come round asap. Over the Xmas break he had been having second thoughts about carrying the activity on, even though it was profitable.

There was too much stress and he wasn’t getting on with his business partner. I was a bit surprised because they both contributed well to the company and had good complimentary skills, both were also quite reasonable people.

Delving into the cause of this crisis, it looked a matter of miscommunication between them.   Or to be exact it was one sided communication. The director I was with sent emails explaining his activity, making suggestions for the business and never got any response from his business partner.

His partner just didn’t see the need to respond, he was busy getting on with the job.

Because they worked in different offices there was no day-to-day chats round the coffee machine and because they had distinct responsibilities they had felt it was only required to meet monthly.

This wasn’t enough interaction to run a business together. Businesses can take all of your time, fire-fighting, dealing with customers and suppliers, so that there doesn’t appear to be the time to “needlessly” be communicating with others in your own business.

But regular physical meetings and prompt electronic communication to each other is vital. It helps team spirit, reduces stress and avoids misunderstandings. The interaction can also generate new ideas that often pop out of the woodwork seemingly just by magic.

Some large companies learnt this early on. I remember going to HP’s office “beer-busts” and Cray’s picnics. IT companies seem to have latched on to ways of informal employee interaction, as well as creating regular occasions for directors to met up.

This can apply also to smaller companies where it may seem that there is no need to plan such activity, since their small size should mean that there are plenty of opportunities to talk. However as was seen, demands on an individual’s time can make that difficult.

Additionally, there can be differing attitudes to communication. One being too verbose, the other too cryptic.

What we did in this case was to meet and thrash out a common attitude and business culture for communication. All agreed that any emails sent should be answered by return if possible, to schedule weekly Skype video calls and fortnightly get-togethers. Some of which could just be an opportunity to brainstorm ideas and ensure all were going in the same direction.

Having an open and friendly approach to internal communication, sharing issues in a no-blame, constructive way has to start at the top.

In small companies there should be far less politics involved than in larger organisations and this good communication and teamwork is an advantage that smaller businesses should have over some of their larger competitors.


5 thoughts on “Avoid Business Partner melt down

  1. Michael EDE

    This story is quite intriguing and invaluable to any business which undertakes the expertise use of a partner or individual from the scratch. Very informative and well articulated blog. I will definitely take this feedback on board and also use those strategies across our business units.

  2. Anne Jessel

    Very good reading! I’m sure many business partners could equate with this.
    Thank you – seeing the experience put down in writing somehow dilutes the stress you personally may feel about such situations!!
    The advice is good and sound. Thank you again

  3. WAYNE

    Hi there,
    I am looking to go into a business partnership with someone who has started a business. I am looking to get some advice on my approach and different steps.
    I have done lots of planning and most of which is with my logo and name. To go into partnership means that I have to change my plans  or what??? Can some one please give me some feed back on this  and how I can move forward without killing my own dreams.

  4. David Redfern


    without knowing the nature of your business it’s difficult to comment however I have, and am having, some experience of working with partners and joining small companies. The first bit of advice I would give is don’t be precious about what you have done in terms of logo, name, corporate identity, company formation etc. What really counts is the product or service you are offering, no amount of dramatic, clever or attractive packaging will plaster over the cracks of a lousy product or service. On the other hand, a great product/service can make a crappy corporate identity into an easily identifiable brand that people trust; it might not look good but customers care about what lies beneath the logo.

    If your “dreams” revolve around a logo or name then I would have someone take a cold hard look at your motives for going into business.

    Regardless of our personal desires, entering into a partnership with someone demands a degree of compromise. If this guys business is even moderatly successful and you both decide that you can bring something to the party that compliments the business then accept the compromises and get on with selling product. One important fact I used to regularly forget is that in 5 years time, having compromised and made some decent money, you can always leave the company and start yourself, or start a division within your company that satisfies your personal ambitions.

    If there is one thing as certain as death and taxes it’s change. In 5 years time the business landscape will have changed throwing up more opportunities so the first thing to do is take the first step and start making some money then you have the power of choice at your fingertips. Don’t let your ego get in the way of a good business opportunity.

  5. David Hilditch

    Back in March I started working with two brothers, one is working full time and the other working only part-time. We figured out in advance that this was probably going to be tricky for the part-time brother and so it turned out to be although far more so than we feared.

    The problem is not so much in the amount of time people have available, but more to do with the amount of ENERGY they have available to expend on a startup. You need a lot of it and it’s really very difficult to do part time.

    Anyway, we’re still going strong but of course the part-time brother is simply not able to do as much as us.

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