Working with a business partner can be tricky, particularly when the going gets tough. Perhaps you rushed into collaborating without talking things through fully, or discovered your ambitions have changed further down the line. Either way, there are steps you can take to remedy the situation, so take a look at our top tips for working with a business partner.
Before we dive into the tips, let’s explore why problems can emerge in partnerships. Here are just a handful of factors that can have a negative impact on business alliances:
- Different management styles
- Different experience or skill levels
- Different commitment levels
- Different lifestyles
Sometimes, these complications are dealbreakers, but often they can be resolved with a few careful steps. So, let’s get stuck into our six top tips for establishing an effective business partnership.
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6 tips for working with a business partner
1. Evaluate potential partners first
Of course, the best thing you can do is make sure you and your potential partner are compatible workmates before you go into business together. This step involves looking closely at both of your working styles, lifestyles and personalities. If one of you loves jetting off on long holidays and working remotely, while the other prefers to be in the office seven days a week, problems will probably arise.
Also, it’s worth getting together to talk about your ambitions for the future as well. Take the time to discuss not only your business targets, but personal goals too. Where do you both see yourselves in two, five or 10 years’ time? Do your ambitions match up? You need to make sure you’re both working towards the same objective, and it may take some time to establish a mutual agreement.
2. Set out roles
Although you may prefer to share out responsibilities 50/50, it’s often more efficient to allocate certain tasks based on experience and preference. It’s likely you’ll be incredibly busy when you first launch your business, so you probably won’t have time to do the same jobs as each other, and won’t have the money to hire professionals to do the other jobs for you.
Before you start working on your business, take the time to divide responsibilities between you, after deciding which you are both best suited to. Does one of you have experience managing accounts? Do you prefer developing products or liaising with clients? Ask yourself what you’re both good at and how you can allocate tasks fairly.
This step is particularly important if you’re about to enter into an especially busy period. This could happen if you’re taking action to expand the business or going off on holiday for a week or two. By planning out your workloads in advance, you can minimise stress and resentment, and make sure everything gets done.
3. Set boundaries
When you work with the same person day in, day out you can lose perspective. If your business partner is – or becomes – your best friend, it can be difficult to work effectively. For this reason, it’s important to establish boundaries. Make time for family and other friends, and if you do meet up with your business partner outside of office hours, try to avoid discussing work – however difficult it is!
When you’re at work, try not to let your personal relationship affect how you run your business. When there are disagreements, try not to take your partner’s comments personally; instead, think logically and don’t reference past grudges. You need to be able to communicate clearly and explain how you feel without letting the conversation get out of hand.
4. Take time to listen
Like any relationship, listening is key. When differences in opinion emerge, give each other the time to convey their concerns before jumping in and putting your point across. By letting your partner speak until they’ve finished explaining their thoughts, you may even find you come to see things from their perspective and are able to resolve problems painlessly. Remember, you’ll have the chance to communicate your feelings, and they’ll be more likely to agree with you if you’ve respectfully given them to chance to talk things through.
If you find yourself getting frustrated, just take a moment to consider the bigger picture. Once you’ve remembered your mutual ambitions for the business, this disagreement may seem like a minor factor that doesn’t warrant extensive discussions. To get the most out of this tip, set a timer for three or four minutes and take it in turns to talk. The ‘listener’ isn’t allowed to interrupt until the time is up.
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5. Be patient
It’s no secret; creating an effective business partnership is hard work, so don’t expect to establish the perfect relationship immediately. It’ll take time to develop a collaborative style that works for both of you and benefits the business. At first, you may struggle to settle into a routine that makes sense.
But, over time, you’ll learn how each of you works best and develop strategies to maximise the success of the business based on your personal strengths. Try not to get frustrated if this takes a while; it can be months or even years before business partners find their groove.
6. Be tactful
Running your own business is not always plain sailing, and it can involve long hours away from family and friends, and a lot of stress. As a result, it’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to experience dark moments, resulting in alcohol dependency, anxiety or depression. On a lower level, you may find yourself becoming irritable or unable to concentrate for long periods of time.
If you recognise symptoms like these in your partner, make sure you act tactfully and give them the time and space to recover over time. You may need to make small changes to your work routine in order to allow for this, and, of course, encourage them to seek professional guidance if you feel it becomes necessary.
If you start to struggle yourself, discuss your thoughts with your business partner and look at how you can adapt your schedule to reduce day-to-day pressure. Again, if the problem doesn’t resolve itself, always seek professional help.
Working with a business partner
Many entrepreneurs don’t know how to work with a business partner effectively, but as long as you make time to set out clear roles and boundaries and understand each other’s perspectives, you should be on track to develop a mutually beneficially working relationship. Just remember: starting a new business can be tough, so don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t work out immediately.
On the other hand, if you’re still struggling after taking the steps listed above and don’t know how to move forward, it might be worth talking to an independent business lawyer or coach as a last resort. Like any relationship counsellor, they’ll help you work through your issues and may even get you back on track. If not, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction if one of you wants to step down or dissolve the business.
For more information on running a business, take a look at our other articles:
- Can Dec Make It Without Ant? The Truth About Franchise Partnerships
- Franchise Partnership: How To Find 'The One'
- How to Launch Your Franchise Successfully
- Franchise Success Stories: How to Run a Successful Franchise According to the UK's Top Franchisees
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©