May 6th, 2012
Close friendships can be destroyed by disagreements over business direction or policy. Original startup partners can become very frustrated over common business problems such as misplaced orders, missed deadlines, confrontational clients or reduced profits. These frustrations are sometimes taken out on each other. Going into business with a friend can be a great experience. When your abilities complement your partner’s, success is often achieved easily. Business can be very successful and exciting but, unfortunately, there can be times when things do not go so well.
There is always the risk of failure. If one partner is easy-going and great with customers while the other takes care of the technical side of the business, resentment can easily develop. The best partnerships in theory may seem unworkable in reality. Before deciding to liquidate your business because of compatibility problems, you should first try to repair the damage and reconcile your friendship.
The early stages of any startup tend to be the most demanding. New owners often put in 18-hour days to get a new business off the ground. This can continue for weeks, months or years depending on the nature of the business. This investment of time is often necessary to build up resources and ensure smooth operation in competitive industries. It can create great stress, however. This may develop most quickly between startup partners. If your partnership is based solely on business, then you need to remind each other of your original goals when disagreements arise. Perhaps you can offer a hard-working partner a night off to spend with loved ones. This can be crucial to recharge and renew business vision. By according each other support and respect, you will create a positive working relationship as a blueprint for the future.
For some startups, the early stages are the easiest. Partners are great friends and already have great respect for each other. The excitement of running a business together helps each overlook faults in the other. It is when the novelty begins to wear off that the problems begin. One partner may begin to enjoy the fruits of your success. He or she may abandon certain obligations entirely. To maintain profits, the other associate must work harder while receiving the same profit percentage. This is bound to cause resentment. The situation can be problematic, but there are steps that can improve an untenable situation.
If you cast your associate as an enemy, it will be impossible to reconcile. Instead of feeling resentful that you work much harder, try to recall the original dynamic that brought you together. Some fail to contribute due to genuine laziness, but others may be unaware that they are no longer making an appropriate contribution. Any effort at reconciliation requires tact. This will be very difficult if you let bitterness possess you.
The first thing you must adjust is your own attitude. If you constantly belittle your associate’s shortcomings, then there is no way you can successfully reconcile. When you are ready to confront the problem, schedule a special meeting or outing for the discussion. Focus on the business and point out what improvements you think are needed. Compare current operations with the way things began and ask your partner about his or her opinion. At this point you can determine if your associate really cares about the business or is just going through the motions. You can now interject your own ideas about how to refocus efforts to bring the business back to your original success. Be prepared with a 3-month or 6-month plan to correct any problems you have identified. Ask your partner’s opinion about amendments or modifications to the plan.
If your partner is willing to make necessary changes to get the business back on its original moorings, then there is hope for the partnership. It may still require a lot of discussion and work, but the problems can be fixed. Once the grievances have been aired, the accumulated tension should relax, and together you can work to restore your friendship and business relationship.
By: E Flynn
The Connell Curtis Group has a full suite of management and technology solutions to assist startup partners build a successful enterprise.