Conflict is an inevitable part of any partnership, whether that be a friendship, marriage or business partnership. Particularly with business partnerships, it can be very easy to let one’s emotions take over and lose sight of the bigger picture, especially when money is on the line. However, there are steps you can take to avoid certain conflicts and at least contain others.
1. Get ahead of the arguments:
All to often people get into business partnerships with their friends or families without laying out a foundation for what each person’s roles and responsibilities are. We tend to enter these partnerships with some sort of unspoken understanding of who is supposed to do what or what I like to call the “figure it out as we go” approach. In most cases this leads to some sort of disagreement down the line because one partner assumed that the other partner was going to handle a certain aspect of the business and in reality, this individual is either incapable of doing so or simply has no desire to do it.
One way to combat this is to create an operating agreement. That way whenever a discussion arises about who is supposed to be doing what, you all have a single written document that you can refer to. In the operating agreement you can spell out who is responsible for what and how the flow of work should be performed. It is important to keep in mind however, that this is a living document that can be amended as your business changes over time.
2. Have a productive conversation:
Even some of the smallest decisions for business owners can seem to be deeply personal. When you disagree with your partner about something that is important to you, it can be very enticing to fall into a defensive mode and shut down. But being able to take a step back and look at the situation through their eyes can assist in solving the problem in the most painless way possible.
Be sure to actively listen to your partner and try to think through their logic with them. Give them the time to explain their position without conjuring up reasons for as to why their idea won’t work. If nothing else, this show them you value their opinions and can allow the both of you to leave the conflict with a sense of appreciation for each other.
Remember, you went into business together because you both had an idea that you both believe would be a success business one day. Each of you brought a set of skills to the table that would make this dream come to fruition.
3. Bring in an Objective third party:
Sometimes, arguments can get to personal and we can get so dug into our own beliefs that we simply cannot see it any other way. At this point the simplest solution can be to bring in an objective third party to help mediate the conversation. This individual should not have a stake in the game and preferably have some experience resolving business disputes. Bringing in a professional to mediate the conversation can ensure both sides leave the table not feeling like they were ripped off.
Conflict is an unavoidable part of any business partnership but, it is important to never lose sight of the bigger picture: to resolve the dispute in the most effective and mutually beneficial way possible, so that you and your partner can continue to grow your business.