Are You Disillusioned With Your Business Partner?

Are You Disillusioned With Your Business Partner?

5 Reasons Why It’s Time To Bail On Your Business Partnership… and 5 Strategies To Get You Both Back In The Game

So have you been the one pulling the big wagon since your partner stopped pushing it with you? All the burdens of your business live in that wagon. Does it feel like your partner is camped out on the wagon enjoying the ‘free’ ride?

The ‘you pulling your partner on a wagon’ analogy is what Fast Company Magazine wrote about based on advice from Craig Jennings, a coach on what to do if you feel disillusioned with your business partner. They point to the 5 signs that demonstrate you should find a new business partner…

But hold on. Is that what you really need?

Let’s face some realities here. If you go searching for a new business partner, and don’t uncover why your current business partnership is on the rocks and you’re looking for a bail out, then you may just re-create the same problems all over again… and never know why. Read this post and make sure you watch this free video training that exposes the heart of why you and your partner are arguing.

This is not to say that you’re the problem. Or that your partner is the problem. We’ve just zeroed in on the crazy making part of this partnership thing: in any conflict we always think the other guy started it. And then we start gathering evidence to prove it.

Bad news, business partners. Even if your partner isn’t talking to you and you are the one pulling the wagon…

Yes, you are both part of the problem. Proving who started what is a complete waste of energy. 

BUT… I know this is hard to accept, but there is a silver lining, so keep reading here.

It isn’t WHO you are that’s causing the problems, it’s how you’re dealing with your own assumptions, expectations and resentments that is creating the friction between you.

Yes, we humans all tend to be reaction machines. Your partner doesn’t talk, or does and it means something. Then you act on that assumption… and it might not be correct.

Most of the time what started the reaction is not the root issue at all. Which is why it’s all so confusing. The cause of the blow out never gets explored… and could have been sorted out if it had. But wait… there might be hope yet.

If you’re going to be in a business partnership, you have to invest time and energy in building your ‘get off of it’ muscles. Get off your assumption. Get off your need to be right. Get off  your silent expectations. Get off your resentment.

So if you go off to start another business partnership, and you don’t get off of this stuff, chances are you’ll find yourself right back where you are today… disillusioned trying to prove your partner is wrong… and worse, you will have burned through a lot of cash breaking up the first partnership to get on board with another one.

Breaking up with your business partner is not a strategy for the risk averse.

Now I’m not saying every partnership needs to build up these muscles. But if you’ve got stories and resentments about your partner, it’s a sure sign you need to strengthen your communication muscles.

Let’s break down Fast Company’s 5 Signs and give you the inside scoop on what you really need to do to recover your partnership. Knowing what to do is 10% of the problem. 90% of success is knowing HOW to activate the advice… which is what their article is sorely missing.

1. You don’t communicate when problems arise. 

That’s Jack in A Few Good Men, having a one-way, my way or the highway er… discussion. Bottom line: Jack doesn’t know how to deal with this problem. Yelling is a sure sign fear lurks under the surface. Angry and loud sounds better. That’s why getting big in front of bear works to scare him off. 

What Fast Company says in a nutshell: get counselling so you can address the stuff that comes up between you.

How to activate in a nutshell: If your partner typically does the one-way, loud voice yell at you strategy, then going to counselling is probably not going to happen anytime soon. Forget trying to get him or her to go. Instead, get yourself someone on your team. You want a skilled coach who can show you tools you can use in the moment to interrupt your habit patterns with each other. Yes, there is a way to talk to angry (afraid) Jack so that the yelling stops. You can’t be running off to a counsellor to manage your partnership on a daily basis. Watch this free video to see how to think differently. You want tools you can whip out in the moment.

What tools? Communication starts with listening to each other in the way you want to be heard. Seek to understand before you demand to be understood. Successful partners use curious questions to demonstrate they are actively listening… and considering how what’s being said might work. If you want to work with a partnership specialist who can show how to use these tools, then take action now by scheduling a complementary 30 minute call. Or just pick up the phone and call 604-377-4307.

2. You don’t trust each other with decision-making.

Clint’s eyes say it all: “I don’t trust you and I’m not going to talk to you.” Clint didn’t learn that trust has nothing to do with the friction between you. What? Debating trust is a frequently used distraction tactic to get you off the real issue.

The Fast Company nugget: Decide who is going to decide what, trust each other.

The How To Strategy nugget: How easy is it to go from not trusting to trusting? Many partners who get stuck, have a thick book of history they like to recite so they can point out why the other partner is not trustable with decisions. If you’ve got history, put the book down. Then use a facilitator to help you deconstruct how come past decisions didn’t work out.

Use this hindsight reflection to refine how you make future decisions. Create checklists. Decide who gets to decide what, when and how. Then sign off on this agreement. Be the first to bring it out each time you have a decision. And most importantly, remember that you are both on a learning curve.

Neither of you will make correct decisions every single time. You don’t know what you don’t know, so give yourselves and each other a break. Learn from what doesn’t work. Trust is a choice you make, not something someone else fixes for you.

3. You’re not on the same page.

Tom is being controlled by a bully in this scene from Captain Phillips. His options are fairly limited. We often don’t have enough practice to go toe to toe with a bully. But there are strategies that can diffuse the situation.

Fast Company says: Hash out how you will resolve disagreements before you have the next one and discover what’s important to both of you.

How to Make This Work: If you’re living in a daily soup of disagreement, you won’t be coming together anytime soon to work out how to deal with it. So Fast Company misses the point on this issue.

Your first step is to realize and remember this bully behaviour is not about you. If they weren’t bullying you they would be bullying someone else. They are practiced at bullying, you aren’t. This mindset keeps you emotionally safe.

Above all else, keep yourself physically safe.

Now here’s the next counterintuitive point to remember: do not give the bully’s statements and opinions authority.

When they say “you’re going to do this”, don’t say “No, I’m not.” Instead just note “Oh. That’s one way it could go.” OR “Hmmm, that’s interesting.” using a neutral to upbeat tone of voice. Responding in this way changes the whole power dynamic!

As soon as you respond to what they are saying by defending or rebutting, you are in fact telling them that they are in control. Then all you can do is squirm out never feel like you’re winning.

By the way, Fast Company says ‘get on the same page’. News Flash: you will never both be on the ‘same page’. That term today has a heaping spoon of blame underneath it and is really impossible to achieve.

We use it when we’re on the defensive or offensive. Forget the page.

You need everyone’s input: There is your perspective, your partner’s and what’s needed next for the business.

All that sits under the umbrella of what is needed to drive cash flow … a business that solves a real problem for the right target market. This last item is the page you both need to be on.

How you meet the needs of the market requires all perspectives and the fact that you and your partner don’t see eye to eye on how to do that needs to be tested, not argued about.

If your partner doesn’t want to be in his or her current role, and the company needs that role, then that’s the page to be on… solving both problems so your partner and your company get satisfied.

4. Both your egos are too big.

Michael as Gordon Gecko in Wall Street, thought he could do no wrong and needed no one in his corner to get what he wanted. Being seen as superior hid his fear of being perceived as weak. A good ego respects the fact that we all need each other to be successful. You need ego to have drive… but all things in moderation.


Fast Company Nutshell: Leave your ego at the door and stop caring about your title means.

Reality in that Nutshell: We all have egos. But that’s not the real problem. If you’re arguing about titles, it exposes two vulnerabilities: a) neither of you are acknowledging all the effort your partner pours in the business… and you don’t appreciate that noticing the small stuff and saying it out loud is what keeps communication flowing. Start noticing!

And b) Your title? What does it need to be so you have the correct level of authority to deal with your responsibilities and your external stakeholders?President?

Develop a job description and make sure the board holds the president accountable to it and this year’s goals. Who sits on the board? The partners and outside advisors. Suddenly ego has nothing to do with how you get along. Accountability is the name of the game.


5. You lack clearly-defined roles.

Costello always had to ask Abbott “Who’s on first?” He never knew his role, so he never contributed what his talent offered. Abbott always took the lead role. A healthy partnership requires you both be in a leadership role sometimes and followers the next. It’s situational leadership. AND you need clarity about who does what, when, why and how high.

What Fast Company suggests you do: Recognize your complementary skill sets and strengths and use this information to find your best roles and titles.

How to Really Do This: Yes, I agree and, the company needs a leader driving the business to the future. The company then has a reason to have functional roles like operations and sales.

If you’re both in functional roles, then the president’s role is done off the side of someone’s desk. Then you’re not building an asset, you’ve created jobs and a lifestyle business.

Building a business that works and is able to grow effectively, can’t be based on what’s fair and equitable. Some people work faster. Some jobs require a lot of thinking rather than visible ‘doing’.

If you both work to your strengths, you will be happier, but recognize that you may need to hire someone who can drive growth if both of you are better at functional roles. What’s more important? A growing profitable company or your title?

So these five signs do show your partnership could be in trouble. But all of these signs are completely reversible… if you learn these tools and more to change your habits that have led you to this friction point in time.

If you make the effort to change first, your partner can’t react to your habit anymore.

So even if you’re partner isn’t making any steps toward changing, you can get back in driver’s seat without risking all you’ve invested in this business. This free training video will show you how to get started. Now that’s a big sign worth recognizing!

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