Is your business partner driving you to distraction? Do you wish the people around your board table would pull their weight more? Are your shareholders winding you up?
Managing people on the same level as you can be incredibly hard, and is almost guaranteed to have you pulling out your hair at some time. I have seen time and time again relationships between partners turn sour.
If only they had thought about a ‘Pre-Nuptial’ agreement.
We have pre-nuptial marriage agreements, so why aren’t the same principles good for business relationships? If you think about it, you actually spend more time with your business partner than you do your life partner!
It’s not really a pre-nuptial, of course. I’d describe it more as a Partnership Charter – boundaries are understood, responsibilities are put in writing, communication lines and strategies made clear. You can include the question in your charter: “What happens if someone isn’t pulling their weight?”
And it’s not too late to bring in a Partnership Charter even if you have been operating for years and years. Going through this process is a great way of addressing issues, and remember, you may find your business partner his issues of their own that you didn’t know about!
It can become the elephant in the room – why are we still together? In a marriage, people may wonder, why are those two together, they are always bickering! It’s the same in business. People may be saying of you and your partners – Why don’t they face reality? Why don’t they sort it out?
Sometimes it’s too late and you just need to get rid of your partner. I worked with a client from a £3m business and I helped him in a parting of the ways of two 50/50 shareholders. It took 18 months to go through the process but would have been so much faster if they had had a shareholders’/partners’ agreement in place at the very start. They agreement lays down guidelines on the working relationship, not just who gets what if the business ends.
You might say, I will never fall out with my business partner. You might come back to me and say I work with my wife or husband and we’ll never fall out over the business. Are you sure?
Is it time for a business pre-nuptial?
By Julian Smith – TAB Derby
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