What are the signs that indicate your partnership relationship is potentially in trouble? If you’ve vetted each other well at the outset, you should be on the same page about most everything—most importantly, core values, goals, ethics, trust and overall ability to communicate honestly. Sometimes, though, even in the best of circumstances, things change for one or more of the partners.
For example, at the start you and your partner(s) agreed to adopt a slow growth policy, taking minimal financial risks. After a short period of time, one partner decides that more aggressive growth and risk taking would be desirable. Neither of you is able to convince the other of your respective viewpoints, and now a stalemate is causing tension. The partner who wants this change is thinking of leaving, but hasn’t voiced it yet. As a result, you are avoiding each other and the downward spiral has begun.
If it's too good to be true, it probably is. They have ulterior motives. Expertise and effort are not equal. The work is unbalanced. They hide the truth. You can't see yourself going on vacation with them.
Another scenario is when one partner begins to slack off or overwork. The other partner(s) either must pick up the slack or be concerned about the work-life balance of the workaholic. Talking about it could allay concerns and clarify what is expected of each; but it may not, and then again the downward spiral may be triggered. A change in vision is no small issue and can be very challenging when it occurs. Having been on the same page at the outset, when one partner has a change of heart and the partners’ perspectives are different about some aspect of the original vision, the business could derail altogether. The vision keeps the business on track.
The best solution to conflict resolution is actually conflict prevention. It is best to resolve things at the disagreement level before they explode into full-on conflicts. This is more easily done with clearly written expectations, goals, and crisis management plans in place. If you have those in place, when a conflict arises you can always go to your business plan, together discussing where you have gone awry. The plan may no longer fit, but at least it can help you open the conversation and make necessary changes.
Now is the time to remember that you had good reasons for choosing your partner, if you were honest and sincere in your initial evaluation and desire to succeed. Keeping that in mind when things get rough will help smooth the waters. Reminding yourself of your partner’s positive attributes that led you to enter into this partnership in the first place will help you find your way back to that place of harmony and mutual respect.
Every business directory policy and procedure should reflect it. Taking a direction different from the one you committed to in the first place reminds me of my ballroom dance instructor who told me, “When your feet point in two different directions, you have to choose one.” Clearly the vision of the partners must be in alignment. If changes are worth considering, then take the time to communicate until it is resolved and agreed upon.
Imagine Zappos or Apple having their core values regarding customer service or employee benefits challenged. Changes in the way they treat either of these populations could vastly affect their reputation, the way they do business and ultimately the success of the business itself. Your business may not be on the same scale as these two, but the same issue about core values being challenged by one partner and not agreed to by the others would have the same destructive effect.