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Last Updated on by Noni May
When you first began the company, life was good. You began as friends, had a business idea, and everything evolved from there. You have weathered a few storms together as you take your idea and make it a reality, as your relationship moves from being friends to business partners. Yet somehow, you made it through as an intact unit – until now.
Rarely is there a defining moment when a business relationship sours. While you may disagree over an issue – such as expansion of the sales department or a new product innovation – the problems tend to infect your partnership slowly. You’ve probably settled a few arguments in your time setting up and growing your business, but then things change. No longer are the arguments a rarity that you both move on from; they’re now a staple.
If these arguments, disagreements, and general bad feelings begin to impact the way your business is running, then you have a serious problem. It can be especially difficult to juggle if your business was based on the foundation of your friendship; a foundation that is now beginning to develop cracks. There’s no point to continuing like this; for the health of your business future (and potentially your personal one, too), you have to start investigating the options for you.
If you and your business partner are generally busy, you may be arguing because you don’t have the time to sit down and talk things through. You may even have the wrong ideas about why they think the way that they do, or you’ve not had time to justify how you feel.
Sometimes, all it will take to come to terms is to spend some time listening to one another. Set time in your schedule aside for just the two of you, preferably out of the office, and definitely away from distractions. Take a timer; each of you gets one minute to speak at a time, and cannot be interrupted for any reason. It’s clinical, but it might just work.
If you have two people in a business partnership who have separate ideas about what the next step is, then the most sensible solution could be to bring in a third party. They can act as the decisive vote, meaning that you can all move on from the issues that are holding you back.
Business-wise, bringing in a third partner is relatively simple. You’ll have to go through the legal proceedings and there might be a buy-in cost you wish to negotiate. It’s also important to ensure you stay up-to-date on the regulations, though you can help yourself with this PSC guide for limited companies and other such helpful literature. While it may be a busy time to get to that stage, you have to consider the end benefits of it. Being able to find a way forward after months of problems is worth a little time investment to get everything above board.
In the above suggestion, mediation would have been done by a third party with an interest in the business. If that’s not something you like the sound of, then you have the option of consulting professional mediation services. People trained in mediation can offer a viewpoint totally divorced from any professional sentiment, helping you and your partner to understand one another better, and find solutions. This outside perspective in a safe space could be invaluable.
This is the final, most brutal step – but if all of the above have failed, then it might be the only one that’s left to you. If things can’t progress and your business is being held back by opinions too diverse from one another, then sometimes, the most healthy thing you can do is to walk away. Dissolving a partnership isn’t an easy process, especially if you both want to retain some rights to the business. Given how complicated and expensive the process can be, it’s really best to make an extra effort to resolve the issues rather than abandoning everything you have worked towards.
If you do decide it has to be the end of the partnership, you might need to prepare yourself for the fact it’s the end of your business. This is a messy way of proceeding. There are some ways it can work – if one of you has decided they no longer wish to be involved in the business at all, for example – but that aside, it’s going to be a rough ride. However, it is still worth it, even if it just allows you to start again with your own vision.