Many businesses began with two or more people excitedly agreeing to put their trust, faith, skills, and future successes in each other’s hands. Plans are made, decisions are reached, enthusiasm and excitement at what the future holds fuels late nights, weekends, and vacation time spent building the business.
However, the real test of a business, and a partnership is how well is the business performing after the initial exuberance of starting a business wears off and everyone assumes their daily role within the business. Running a business is more akin to a relay race than it is to a sprint.
After having some time working IN the business (creating products or services, interacting with customers, handling the cash flow issues, etc.), a certain routine becomes established and methods and procedures evolve. However, that does not always reflect what the original plan contained. In some instances, the reality of running a business identifies and corrects for opportunities or problems that were not foreseen when the business plan was put together. In other cases, the daily demands of the business slowly change how the business is conducted away from the intended approach – and not for the better.
That is why it is critical for partners to occasionally connect and work ON the business. Rather than focus on resolving the next client or customer complaint, they should share ideas on why customers are complaining at all and what they need to do about it in the future to prevent it. Instead of just meeting each customr request for a product or service, they need to ask themselves if their business model still is appropriate or if they need to revisit that.
With the best of intentions, people can agree to work together and split roles, responsibilities, and other aspects of the business – but until they begin to do it; the philosophies and perspectives each will rarely surface or become known. In one business that I am familiar with, two partners both agree that they want to run their business profitably, but they disagree on how to best accomplish that.
One partner views expenses as “bad” and seeks to minimize them as best as he can. The other partner looks at expenses diferently. She sees certain costs, like inventory, new technology, and training for employees as ways of enhancing assets and as contributing to their ability to be profitable. Neither is necessarily wrong, and they both seek the same thing (profit). They just see different pathways to accomplish it. This difference of perspective has not bubbled over into disputes or conflict, but it does have the potential to do so in the future if they don’t come to some agreement.
It is also appropriate for business partners to take a moment during the relay race of running their business and consider how they feel about the business and the partnership. They would be well served to discuss:
- Are they enjoying the work – if not, what changes would need to be made to allow them to enjoy the work?
- Do they feel valued – when the partner works in the business, are they feeling that their efforts are appreciated, recognized, and acknowledged?
- Are they fulfilled – is the work still challenging and providing a sense of accomplishment, contribution, and reward?
- Is the business providing sufficient income – while it is not the only measure to be used, and in some instances it may not be the most important one, the partners need to address if the business is sufficiently profitable enough to meet the financial needs of the partners. If it is not, then ways of accomplishing that need to be surfaced and decided.
Running a business with a partner allows for each person’s strengths to be leveraged and applied, but it also means that occasional checkpoint meetings need to happen. Failure to discuss these issues can lead to resentment, assumptions, perceptions, and beliefs about the business and each other. If that is allowed to continue, it can be the difference between a clean hand-off of the baton in the relay race and a disqualification because of the lack of coordination between them.
It is too easy to get drawn into the pressures of the day-to-day and lose sight of the larger race being run. In order to manage the business and not be managed by the business, occasionally arranging for a partner meeting, even if over tacos and margaritas, will go a long way to resolving issues before they cause the parntership to implode.