In some regards, a business partnership is like marriage. There is often a honeymoon period full of excitement when the relationship starts, but things can sour later. You have obligations to one another and sometimes partial responsibility for the mistakes or oversights of the other person.
Although a business partnership is much more formal than a marriage, it can present many of the same challenges. For example, resolving conflicts can be difficult for business partners and spouses alike, as the wrong approach could do lasting damage to the relationship.
If you and your business partner are embroiled in a conflict or if you disagree with their actions at your business lately, you may need to follow the three steps below to resolve the conflict without causing permanent damage to the relationship.
Double-check the details
Before you try to broach the topic with your partner, it’s important that you have a clear perspective. Reviewing the partnership agreement will be a crucial part of this process, as you may have forgotten something that explains your partner’s recent behavior. You may also have included specific rules about how to address and resolve conflicts.
Once you’ve reviewed the contract, it is important to look at the decisions or behaviors that you take issue with to ensure that they actually took place the way that you believe. Only when you have carefully re- evaluated the situation should you talk to your partner about it.
Try to have a calm conversation about the issue
Does your partner want to accept an unsolicited purchase offer from a competing business, or do you take issue with some of the recent management decisions regarding your staff? Identify the core issue and then find a way to set some time aside to discuss it with your partner.
Your partner may agree when you explain things from your point of view, or they may be able to provide information that helps you understand their perspective. If you cannot resolve things while staying calm, then you may need to move to written communication.
Know when to take things to court
If you reach a dead-end or if the situation continues to escalate, you may have no choice but to involve the civil courts. You can potentially obtain a court order preventing certain behavior or even dissolve the partnership. The solution you seek in court will depend on the circumstances.
However, involving the courts should be the last resort, as litigation could do further damage to your relationship and make it hard for you to work together in the future.
Proactively addressing partnership disputes that could damage your business can protect your company and possibly your partnership in the long run.