Business is tough enough on its own, without adding a life or business partner to the mix. There are thousands of businesses out there where a spouse, partner, or friend get involved and becomes part of the business.
The horror stories of dissolved partnerships and businesses going to the wall, resulting in a split, or even worse, a failed marriage are also in the thousands.
So, why is it so hard to keep the business on the straight and narrow?
Here are some of the reasons I believe these business face challenges, and what you need to do to resolve them.
1. Clear role descriptions –
Often, arguments arise due to the fact that neither party are sure who is doing what in the business. I often see that one partner thinks that he or she is doing all the work, while the other thinks exactly the same! A buildup of frustration often results in a screaming match.
In many cases, the complications that arise from the cross-pollination of roles makes it tough for not only the partnership but the employees and the client, too. Not having clear organisational clarity is a sure-fire way to crumble. I strongly suggest that if you are facing this challenge, you sit down and get clear on each other’s roles and responsibilities. If you’re a small business, often you are a jack of all trades and master of none. So, what you are looking for is who is the best fit for that particular role and task – even if it’s by a fraction.
It makes sense that each party knows what they need to do to get their job done, what they will extreme ownership of, and how that will impact the business itself.
2. Putting your work hats on –
Too often, I see partnerships come undone due to both parties being unable to separate work from their personal life. Putting those two together is a lethal combination, like fuel and fire.
The key to keep things above-board is to respect one another and the roles and responsibilities you have in the business as above. Knowing that at the end of each day, you need to return back to the personal side of life.
To add to this pressure, I have often seen the involvement of the third party – someone’s two cents being added – which usually looks like a life partner, a relative, or someone similar. The ones who have their say on the situation, usually without knowing the complete picture. This often leads to more drama, which could have been avoided through open communication.
The message of the story here is to clearly separate work life, and business life.
3. A clear outcome for each person –
It’s amazing how two people could be wanting a similar outcome, but due to the lack of time to communicate, they end up in arguments over what’s what, and who wants what.
I believe that a lot of frustration can be avoided simply by communicating what it is that each party wants out of the business itself. Things like finances, holidays, the flexibility of work, asset management, and so forth. Once written down, it makes life easier as it creates clarity on what to expect and how to ensure that everyone involved is respected.
4. What happens when it all goes to s**t –
I believe that being prepared is a considerably better strategy than waiting for the proverbial “s**t hitting the fan” scenario. So, having a clear process of what happens in case of a disagreement, a vote that needs both parties to agree on, a major decision that can affect the business growth and/or sustainability, and so forth.
Get this out-of-the-way with some type of partnership agreement. That way, when and if the time comes, you’ll be ready for what’s next. I have seen many partnerships go down the drain because of the lack of clarity around such items, most of which are avoidable if this prior planning is in place.
5. Accountability –
Everything usually starts out right in business, and all involved roll up their sleeves and do whatever it takes to get things moving. However, after a period (especially if everyone is making money) accountability starts to slacken, and in some cases becomes non-existent. This is the first chink in the armour so to speak.
Having clear guidelines around accountability and ownership of a particular project or task does take a lot of argument and frustration out of a family run business. This way, there are now several types of accountability; one which would be job specific, and others that are simply common sense.
Make sure you don’t blur the lines here. In many cases, family members seem to bring the hierarchical respect thing into play…”It’s okay, he’s my uncle, what can I say to him?” vibe; or they simply take it for granted that they have a job to do that often affects others.
Let me get one thing straight – I think having a family run business is awesome. It adds a great dynamic; however, you just need to have some clear ground rules to get the most out of the relationship, regardless of whether it’s family or employees in general!