Relationships between business partners come with opportunities and risks. If things go well, you may share a common vision for the future and consult with each other regularly about how to carry that out effectively.
In other cases, however, a partnership dispute can cause cracks in the very foundation of the foundation of the business. This could lead to further problems down the line, including the need to dissolve it or buy each other out.
How do you address these situations where there is disagreement? Here are five suggestions.
Have an airtight operating agreement
An operating agreement is a business’s North Star. It offers a clear direction for the company. Within it, each partner’s roles, responsibilities and compensation should be clearly laid out. The contract can also include processes for handling specific difficult situations.
Gaps in an operating agreement (and other important documents) can lead to confusion, frustration and eventually an argument. By ensuring your paperwork is written in a thorough manner (something an attorney can help with), you can have answers to tough questions before they even come up.
Keep an open mind
Each partner may come at a problem from a different point of view, based on their own experiences and knowledge. Often there is no “right” answer, just different ones. Because of this, it’s important to try to understand your partner’s concerns, just as they should try to understand yours..
Try to identify the root of the conflict
People often have trouble explaining what is actually bothering them, particularly when speaking with those to whom they feel close. For example, maybe a partner says they’re worried about the direction of the company – when in reality they’re concerned about job security should the company pivot.
If you can find the root cause of the conflict, it becomes easier to address a partner’s concerns and defuse the situation.
Refrain from making it personal
When tempers flare, it’s easy for people to bring personal feelings into the matter. This is particularly true if you’ve gotten to know each other quite well. When discussing business issues, make sure to keep the conversation about work. Do not bring in personal issues or complaints.
Get outside help
Some disputes cannot be resolved in-house. In these cases, you may need to hire a business attorney to find a solution. Depending on your circumstances, this could be through litigation or through an alternative process such as mediation. You can talk this over with your attorney and agree on a plan for moving forward in a way that protects your interests most effectively.