Business owners often choose to go into business with a partner or partners and just like personal relationships things can sometimes turn sour as circumstances change. Sometimes the passion goes out of the relationship and the partners drift apart deciding to go their separate ways. Sometimes things get messy as differences spill over into the workplace with clear differences of opinion about strategy and operations getting in the way of decision making, harming the business and office morale with staff getting caught in the middle or unable to do their jobs effectively. Whilst it may be possible for the business to limp along, it is almost certain to under-perform; in extreme cases things can spiral out of control leading to financial losses and/or an acrimonious and potentially costly break up.
What do you do in these circumstances? Shareholders/partnership agreements will often provide a mechanism for untangling the situation but that is not always the case. Depending on how far things have gone, it might be possible to get things back on track by working through, in detail, a shared vision and strategy for the business that is aligned to the partners’ personal vision of what they each want to achieve from the business – from remuneration to role and responsibilities and eventual exit. The business vision and strategy should look at roles and responsibilities, matching these to skills and experience and set out how accountability will be delivered and core values and beliefs for the company to follow. Finally, the partners should consider a range of “what if” scenarios and how these will be handled if and when met – absent the emotion that often clouds people’s judgement in the heat of the moment.
When executed well, this approach can enable the partners to set an agreed course and provide a record that is not open to interpretation or hazy recollection of what has been agreed and provide a solid foundation for business planning and governance.