Blog: Partnership Battle Ground
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July 2017 by Kelly Mills
Partnership Battle Ground
Anyone who has ever been involved in a business partnership has experienced the partnership battle ground.
Growing together –v- Growing separately
Growing at the same time in a Partnership is awesome and the dream that we all envisaged when we decided (or fell) into business with our fellow business owners.
Of course it’s better to be working your butt off, and look over and there is your business partner working their butt off as well, simultaneously growing, nurturing and all those corny corporate speak words we utilise when trying to build a business.
But partnership is not always glorious and it’s not always simultaneous. If your partnership is, then kudos to you, you’re on fire and you can probably just share this article now for others who you know are struggling. You and your business partner are obviously business giants.
No sarcasm was intended in the above paragraph. But, only those who are going through partnership woes will read this paragraph and chuckle at the naivety, that any one person can actually believe that all is, always well. If you do then you are likely in an ivory tower of denial.
If you are looking for a perfect business partner, give up. Even if you think your partnership is all inspiring, your partner might be silently plotting your demise, or at least at times mildly irritated by your rampant positivity.
Perfect partnerships don’t exist, but that’s ok.
One is the loneliest number
One is the loneliest number, and until you have run a business by yourself, it is hard to recognise the issues that you face alone, issues, that in a partnership don’t exist or are eased by multiple persons to share the burden.
  1. You are running late for a meeting with an important client, your business partner might sometimes step into the board room and keep the client chatting until you arrive, or they would if you asked.
  2. When you go on holidays your business partner keeps things running, handling at least basic day to day issues and staff, so that you can take a break
  3. You are the ‘yin’, to their ‘yang’. Your business partner or fellow owner may do a part of the business that you aren’t good at but they are, and vice versa.
  4. Your financial responsibility in partnership is less daunting, after all where profit is split so is liability.
  5. Did they ever keep on working keeping things going when you were going through a bad time, did you do that for them, could you do that without complaining, after all you might need them one day, to do the same for you.
It’s not me, it’s you
A key issue with partnerships is blindness to oneself, justification of your own position, and the inability to see someone else’s side.
Curb this by trying to write a list about all the things the person does bring to the business, in its entirety, whether that is money, marketing, sales, time, management, past and present.
Personality problems
Let’s face it; you have a personality so you have personality problems. You aren’t immune to problems with your wife or husband, your mum/dad, father/father in law, your friends etc, so why do you expect to be immune to problems with someone you are in business with.
Once you are in close quarters with another person, especially when making joint decisions, you are going to have occasion to get annoyed or clash.
The important thing is to let it go, understand that they are a different person to you and that there is more than one way to get to get to a destination. People’s brains work in different ways, and the most effective way to do something for you may not be the most effective way to do something for them. If they did it your way it might take them twice as long.
Bringing in work –v- running the place
This is an eternally tough one, some people are better networkers, have better or wider reputations, and either by working at making contacts over many years, past or present, or even by their very nature, they can attract work to the business now. If you are a worker bee, the person doing the day to day stuff it can be difficult to see the value of this type of input, while you are up to your elbows and they are having a coffee with someone.
If someone can join a business and quickly bring in work, it is usually because that person is drawing from years of hard work networking, and building relationships. The business isn’t just benefiting from what they do just today; the business will continue to benefit from that work from the past.
Bringing in work, delegating and feeding others work is what makes a business owner.
On the other hand, the person who brings in the work makes the mistake of thinking that the worker bee could just as easily be an employee. This is so far from the truth. A business owner who is a worker bee brings to the position absolute responsibility, turns up every day, is stable, sets the working example, runs the staff and does a great proportion of the work for that incoming business, makes sure the staff do the work that has been fed to them, and this is just as valuable.
Don’t lose sight of your skills, or the other persons. Remember, without incoming work you are out of business, and without doing the work you are just offering empty promises. Both parts of the business are important.
Ideally each person would bring in the same and work the same, but life isn’t ideal, and in many instances there is one who does or is more skilled in one than the other.
Avoid words like ‘all’, it is combative.
He says,” I bring in ‘all’ the business!”
She says, “Yea! Well I do ‘all’ of the work.”
If you have budgets, even if it is just for arguments sake, agree on a percentage value on work for bringing in the work as opposed to doing it. Say 80/20, 80% for doing the work and 20% just for getting the work through the door. Whatever you decide it will be dependent on your margins, and at cost rates.
Partners at Home and Partners in business
It’s ok to talk about some of your problems, to your partner at home about your partner in business, but remember, if your partner at home gives you advice, it is only advice based on your perspective so it is unlikely to be sound advice sourced from any reality.
Curb this by asking your partner at home to play devil’s advocate, and question you more, if you can take it, or tell them you are just venting.
The last thing you want is your partner at home to be bolstering your one eyed view point.
Put it on Paper
Of course you should have an agreement, and where possible it should deal with the nitty gritty. However, to some extent the last thing you want to be doing is walking into your partner’s office, holding the agreement high, waving it above your head like a victory flag. You might win that battle, but you will not have enlisted any allies in the war.
Get an agreement together before you have issues, and like your terms and conditions with clients, keep refreshing it to allow for things as you learn, but use the paper agreement in a day to day disagreement with high caution!
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If you liked this article please take the time to share it with your network.
About the Author
Kelly Mills is the CEO of Law Support Australia a software house that works closely with Law Firms and improving efficiency. Our premium legal products include; FilePro, Legal Payroll, and our on the go Time Entry App.
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