Business Partnership as a Couple

We have discussed the ups and downs of business partnerships here and hopefully you have an insight into what makes for a successful business partnership. But have you considered a business partnership with your life partner?

Jo Ann and Bob Shirilla of Poland, OH have been married for 39 years, most of which they were working in two very different industries. Jo Ann, 62, ran and operated a gift shop while Bob, 64, spent 30 years in the information technology field.

Jo Ann knows what kind of flexibility working for yourself can provide, as her time in charge of the shop afforded her the chance to care for the couples’ two daughters. But when their children grew up and finished college, the two decided to retire. The rest was history.

Jo Ann closed her store but had plenty of leftover gift shop inventory so Bob used his tech-savvy to help her set up an e-commerce website. Bob tells Forbes he was “neither financially nor emotionally ready to fully retire,” and with their daughters out of college, they felt a financial risk was in the cards. So Keepsakes Etc. became an online personalized gift shop that fulfilled both of their desires to only semi-retire. Things were going so well the couple has even expanded to a second website and a much larger inventory. Their second website, Simply Bags, sells backpacks, totes and fashionable bags for everyone.

The couple’s success might have something to do with the complementary skills they’re able to offer to the business. Bob is in charge of business processes, internet marketing and technical difficulties while Jo Ann runs operations and merchandising. But since opposites don’t always attract, Jo Anna and Bob make sure to do their respective work in different locations to ease any potential tension.

While it might seem like the two are busy, they’re not so busy that they’re missing their retirement. The stores offer the Shirillas a much-appreciated flexibility in hours. They’re able to travel together all around the country reaping the full benefits of no longer having to punch a clock. They’re having such a great time that even though Jo Ann warns against the potential financial risks of going into business for yourself, she offers that her only regret is that “I wish we would have done this earlier.”


If you’re a late-life entrepreneur seeking help with a new or existing business, Prime Strategies can offer the necessary guidance and expertise to help you reach your goals.

Partnership Problem: Stress

Strategy: Expect stress, but don’t waste time on it!

Parnership Problems picture of man clentching fist over note padRunning a business can be very stressful.  If that stress is not managed properly it can often impact your relationships, including the one with your business partner.  Problems between you and your partner may simply be due to stress.  Complicating this issue is that many times what appears to be the problem on the surface is actually born out of stress and anxiety about the business.  Knowing this is half the battle.

If you think that stress anxiety is likely the case, take time to talk about it. Try to find out what you or your partner feels is wrong or what is stressing them; then take the time to fix it.  Many times stress and anxiety can be alleviated by focusing on solving an easily fixed circumstance. Recognition of your partner’s situation and feelings is a great place to start. Ask questions to determine their perspective. Share your own. If you’re having trouble coming together, it’s good to review and refocus on the original purpose for the business.  As a result you’ll learn if there has been a shift in thinking by either party.

In her article on Partnership Stressors Barbara Hauser identifies the top three stressors as being out of touch, out of sync and out of reach. You and your partner are out of touch if you have conflicting priorities, a different sense of urgency or how you choose to spend your time. Instead of feeling supported, the weight of responsibility seems to be square on your shoulders. Out of sync means you are not together on your timing. Both partners are busy, so meetings can get put off; one partner may be ready to move ahead rapidly, while the other is not ready. Out of reach produces long stretches of silence, unreturned phone calls and emails. Sudden changes of plans by one partner or the other make it difficult to stay on track in a business relationship.

The antidote for all these stressors is communication. It is absolutely critical that all partners meet on a regular basis to review the status of the business, the results of actions taken, plans for the future and concerns that may be producing stress. When one partner is stressed, it will likely affect the other partner too. Better to not allow the stress to build up, but if it does, take action now. If you’ve tried and you’re still not able to come together, it may be time for outside help.

Sometimes an outside opinion, kudos, idea… can revitalize your initial passion.  I have shared with more than one client how to, “Convert the energy of putting out fires into … plans that bring in more revenue, more customers, more brand recognition.”  Stress is not only bad for your health, but it wastes time and energy that can be focused on ______________ (you fill in the blank).  For some ideas now, you may find my Business Success Articles just what you need.  Otherwise contact me for more guidance and ideas.

Partnership Problem: Waning Interest

Strategy: Re-focus on the motivators.

One of the worst things that can happen to a partnership is for one partner to feel that the unique and enterprising business idea and opportunity is no longer worth it. It can usually be recognized by excuses such as not having enough time or being overly busy or stressed. This may be a sign that the partner has other interests outside the business or something that pulls their attention away from the business.

If this happens, talk about it. It may sound simple, but discussing the observations can be one of the most effective ways to solving this problem. There will be a reason why they have lost interest, so try to find out why and see what you can do to change things. Be open and willing to listen.  When the communication is not flowing freely try reminiscing about why you started the business, review some positive client feedback, or discuss the motivators that sparked the initial thoughts about starting the business.  In most cases, such motivators (like making money, helping others, sharing one’s expertise, not having a boss, etc.) hasn’t changed; the perception as to how they relate to the business is what has changed.  The objective in the discussion is for the partners to develop a strategic plan to help stay focused on the motivators.

Sometimes this problem needs more insight.  Your business, your motivation, your ability to succeed can always benefit from an outside perspective.  Such support and coaching cannot only renew the passion, but can help with keeping it going through the next slump.  Having experience working with a variety of partnerships has given me a unique understanding of partnership dynamics. See the Partnerships section on the Business Success Articles page for more information on managing your partnership. And if you’d like help in coming together to refocus on the motivators, send me a message on the Contact Page and select the Subject Partner Coaching.

Partnership Problem: Unforeseen Situations

Strategy: Plan to talk and talk the plan!

Most people, who start a business, know they can’t plan for every problem. As a solo entrepreneur they either have to resolve the situation alone or ask for outside help.  In a partnership the problem strategy needs to be regularly scheduled meetings to not only talk about business in general, but to use the time to also discuss problems and concerns.

But what about the problems that occur on a daily basis?  This is the best time to cash in on the perks of partnership!

There are going to be problems that need immediate answers… like disgruntled customers, shipping problems, etc.  Regardless of which partner or employee handled the issue, even if the outcome was less than desired, there must be transparency and detailed communication about the problem. Emotions come into play when things seem a bit out of control, so this needs to be kept in mind when opening discussion on an issue. Regardless of the field or industry, policies are needed to make certain every problem gets handled in a way that gets best results.

If you find your partner resisting or “forgetting” about these critical opportunities to communicate with each other, I’d suggest you take command of the situation and create a plan for operations the way you believe is best. Present it to your partner for discussion. You will find more interest in such a meeting.

In addition to these regular strategy meetings, having a planned “go to” list of who best can solve which kind of problems, will help resolve problems more quickly and with better outcomes.

Sometimes it’s helpful to get an outside perspective on problem resolution.  Asking for help or ideas is never a sign of weakness; in fact it shows how dedicated you are to the business getting to the top!  I specialize in working with one or more partners to put them in command of their partnership and their business. My mission is to help you and your partnership business succeed.  Read more Partnership articles on the Prime Strategies blog.  

Partnership Problem: Common Serious Problems

Strategy: When all else fails, get outside help!

Here are some of the more serious situations I see most often in partnerships. These can be devastating to the business if not addressed quickly and professionally. If you’ve been unsuccessful in resolving any of these problems it may be time to ask for outside help.

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. .

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 behaviours 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 the website.

I have personal and professional expertise with partnerships So if you need more help, go to the Contact page and send me a message giving the details of your situation. We’ll schedule a no-obligation time to talk.

Help! I Want to Dissolve my Partnership

A client, we’ll call her Susan, had a business that was struggling financially and operationally. She was totally disgusted because her partner of 10 years was no longer carrying his weight and didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation. She was so stressed she was seriously considering liquidating the business if things couldn’t be changed for the better in a very short time.

What to do? Her first commitment had to be to herself. Susan was able to realize that it was up to her to take command of this situation. She was coached to create some measurable goals with time frames. She decided she wanted to give the business and her partner one last chance. Susan knew she must bring her partner, and eventually her staff, into the picture in order to get their buy-in.

She created Job Roles for herself, her partner and each of her staff (Office Manager, Buyer and 2 Salesmen). Because of the longstanding relationship between her and her partner, we agreed it was best if I met with the partner and her to present things up to this point. Preparing for this was anxiety-producing for Susan, but also liberating. NOTE: Using a third party (like a coach or consultant) can offer a different perspective to a known problem. [Read more…]

The Partnership Model for Growth and Profit

If you’re thinking a partnership is a business with one or more equity owners, you’re absolutely correct. But the terms partner and partnership have a much broader meaning in usage. Read or listen to the business news and you’ll hear lots about business partnerships. Businesses large and small are growing through partnerships.

Dallas Business Journal reports, “American Airlines has forged a three-year marketing partnership with National Football League’s New England Patriots.”

Reuters states, “Jamie Kennedy partners with Yoostar ™ to create original viral content and launch the Yoostar Comedy Channel”

Wall Street Journal announces, “Google and SpotMixer expand partnership to include In-Stream video advertising. [Read more…]

How Do I Find the Right Business Partner?

Having a business partner presents a complex mix of interpersonal and business issues, and both need to be addressed for it to work.

If your primary interest is having someone to brainstorm with and to help your business move forward, there may be other options besides a partner. A consultant or coach may be able to fill that role. In that case you’d have the benefit of an objective dedicated mind but would still make the final decisions.

Likewise, if additional capital is needed now, there may be alternatives to giving away your hard-earned equity. Debt is usually preferable to equity unless the partner can add significant value to your business. If an equity partner can open a sizable new market, take on critical responsibility or provide access to valuable resources, it may be worth serious consideration.

Base your decision to have a partner on sound logic and reasoning. Be careful of just wanting to dump responsibility on anyone who will agree.

The purpose of the partnership should be clear in your own mind first. Then you’re ready to determine the qualities and assets a potential partner would bring. A partnership is usually a long term arrangement, so think long and hard as to whether or not you’re ready for that level of commitment.

If you believe that a partner is right for you, you must select very carefully. Here is the approach I would take.

Start with your own strengths. [Read more…]

7 Tips for a Business Partnership That Works

Business partnerships take on a variety of forms. They may be a long term formal legal commitment or a simple short term venture to test a market concept. The same principles apply in all cases.

Here are 7 tips to make sure the partnership starts strong and stays strong.

1 – Start by creating a shared Vision & Mission

As in any business, it’s critical for the partners to define the Vision and Mission of the venture as the very first step. If all brains aren’t going in the same direction in the same way, problems are bound to arise.

The motives for each partner can be different. The overall objectives and methods, however, need to be the same.

Tom chose to partner with Dominic because each saw the market need for a commercial kitchen facility. Tom was a commercial contractor who had worked on restaurants and catering facilities. Dominic was Manager of a cooking school and well connected within the food preparation industry. Their Vision was a 2,000 sq. ft. facility that would have 3 shifts of production, serve as a test kitchen for the cooking school and contract with other long term and project clients.

Tip: Take time to discuss your company’s Vision and Mission with your partners. Look for what energizes and motivates each of you about your business. Give it a purpose and define what the ideal business will look like. Put the joint Vision and Mission in writing and use it as the reference for everything else you do. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]