Common Partnership Challenges

I’ve had one official business partnership during my coaching and consulting career. I met Barbara (alias) in 2001 through a women’s business organization. We didn’t really know each other well but we both thought creating a partnership to offer “personal branding services” would benefit each of us. I would provide the system, she would provide communications and presentation training. To round out our offering we decided to contract with an image consultant. We had a very thin written agreement that mainly stated we were equal partners. We agreed we would put together a personal branding program that we would package and market through our mutual networks.

Unfortunately, Barbara had no network. I assumed she had one, but I didn’t think to ask before we shook hands. She looked to me to create the program, develop the marketing and get people to sign up. Plus I had the business background, so she figured I should handle the books also. After being in business only about nine months, Barbara’s husband became suddenly ill and she had to take care of him round the clock. We decided to dissolve the partnership. Obviously it was headed for eventual problems, so it’s fortunate we had another reason to disband.

What I learned from that partnership was that a lot more time should have been spent upfront comparing notes, creating job roles, establishing expectations and determining if we were both going the same direction.

Amazingly, after that I started getting clients who were in partnerships. Not all, of course, but my eyes were opened to how many businesses operate as partnerships.

As I began working with partnerships I started to see common partnership challenges play out over and over regardless of the type of business.

Here are some of the situations I see most often.

One partner feels like he’s carrying the bulk of the workload (or a partner is falling down on the job).
This may have happened because there wasn’t an agreement about who would do what. Job roles, access to needed resources, responsibilities and accountability have not been discussed. This is bound to lead to problems.

Expectations are not being met.
Expectations may be quite different for each partner. When expectations aren’t met, it’s a set up for negative feelings. It’s important that each partner knows what to expect from the other(s).

Partner has lost interest in the business or changed thinking.
Over time new attractions and options will continue to present themselves to all partners. When a partner becomes disenchanted with how the partnership is going, she is more likely to lose interest over time. This may be a compound problem.

Can’t talk to each other.
Communication is so critical to maintaining a viable partnership. When partners get so busy doing their own thing that they can’t find time to sit down with the other(s), they will likely start to feel less engaged. An unresolved issue can also lead to partners being unable to talk about certain things.

It’s a wrong partnership.
Sometimes the partnership has been a bad match from the beginning, but it was maintained for a variety of reasons. When the primary reason for the partnership was based on personal needs more than on business needs, if those needs aren’t fulfilled, the partnership will flounder. Maybe one partner thinks and acts fast and the other wants to research things in great detail. These people may never be able to function well together. Basic behaviors and traits will not likely change even if the person tries.

Are any of these your concern? If so, how should you open the subject of improving the relationship for the good of the company? To learn the steps I recommend for making positive changes to your partnership arrangement read my article, Help! I Want to Dissolve My Partnership. It’s the most popular article on my website.