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How to Deal with a Difficult Business Partner

How to Deal with a Difficult Business Partner

If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t understand how to deal with a difficult business partner, it can be a challenging and stressful experience. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bad business or that your business is doomed to fail.

It’s common for disagreements and conflicts to arise in business partnerships, especially as your business grows and evolves. It’s important to address the situation in a constructive way and take steps to resolve the issue before it becomes a major problem.

In this article, we will discuss different scenarios in which it can become difficult to deal with a business partner. We will provide you with some tips on how to handle a difficult business partner and navigate through the situation with professionalism and tact.

My Business Partner is Making Decisions Without Me

If you find yourself in a situation where your business partner is making decisions without your consent, it can be a frustrating and concerning experience. As a business partner, it’s important to be on the same page when it comes to making important business decisions. When one partner makes decisions without consulting the other, it can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and even legal issues.

Consent is a crucial aspect of any business partnership, as it helps to ensure that both partners are in agreement and working towards the same goals.

Signs of Underlying Issues in the Partnership

  • Lack of communication: Partners may make decisions independently due to unclear communication and a lack of understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities.
  • Different priorities: Business partners may have different priorities or goals, and one partner may prioritize their own interests over the interests of the business as a whole.
  • Lack of trust: When business partners lack trust, one partner may make decisions without consulting the other, fearing disagreement or veto.
  • Personality clashes: Business partners may have different personalities and communication styles that clash, leading to one partner feeling like they need to take charge and make decisions on their own.
  • Power struggles: When there is an imbalance of power or control in a business partnership, one partner may feel justified in making decisions without consulting the other.
  • Time constraints: In some cases, one partner may feel like they need to make a decision quickly, without waiting for input from the other partner.

It’s important to address this situation as soon as possible and try to resolve it through open communication and negotiation.

Steps to Resolve These Underlying Issues

  • Talk to your business partner: The first step is to approach your business partner and express your concerns. Explain that you want to be involved in the decision-making process and that their actions are causing you to feel left out or undervalued. Listen to their response and try to understand their perspective.
  • Review your partnership agreement: Review the terms of your partnership agreement to see if there are any provisions that address decision-making and voting rights. If there are, discuss how they apply to the situation at hand and come to a mutually acceptable solution. This review is also critical in determining to what extent your business partner may be able to make unilateral business decisions without consulting you or other partners.
  • Seek the advice of a mediator: If you’re unable to reach a resolution on your own, consider seeking the advice of a neutral third party mediator. A third party mediator could be a professional mediator, a trusted colleague or friend, a business coach or consultant, or an attorney with experience in business dispute resolution. They can help facilitate communication and negotiation between you and your business partner and work to find a mutually agreeable solution.

If the problem persists and your partner makes harmful unilateral decisions for the business, you might need to take action, like getting legal help or ending the partnership. In that case, consult with an attorney who specializes in partnership disputes to discuss your options and the potential consequences of legal action.

My Business Partner Tries to Make Me Look Bad at Work

When someone tries to make you look bad at work, you might feel demoralized. It can create a toxic work environment and damage the overall success of your business.

Possible Scenarios of Undermining or Disparaging Behavior by Business Partners

  • Taking credit for your work: Your partner might present your work as their own or exaggerate their own contribution while minimizing your contribution.
  • Criticizing you in public: Your partner might make negative comments about you or your work in front of other employees or clients.
  • Withholding information: Your partner might withhold important information that could help you perform better or make it difficult for you to access resources needed to do your job.
  • Sabotaging your work: Your partner might intentionally interfere with your work by, for example, withholding important information, not meeting deadlines, or creating unnecessary obstacles.
  • Blaming you for mistakes: Your partner might try to shift blame onto you for any mistakes or problems that arise, even if they are responsible for them.

Effective Strategies to Manage this Challenging Scenario

  • Document the behavior: Keep a record of specific instances where your business partner has tried to make you look bad, including the date, time, and what was said or done.
  • Address the behavior directly: Talk to your business partner about their behavior in a non-confrontational way, and explain how it’s impacting you and the business.
  • Consider mediation: If you’re having trouble resolving the issue with your business partner, consider bringing in a neutral third party mediator to help facilitate the conversation and find a resolution.
  • Set clear boundaries: Make it clear to your business partner that their behavior is not acceptable and establish clear boundaries for how you expect to be treated.
  • Seek legal advice: If your business partner’s behavior is particularly egregious or is causing significant harm to the business, you may need to seek legal advice to protect your interests.

My Business Partner Is Not Pulling Their Weight and Not Contributing Equally to the Business

It can be frustrating for you if your business partner is not pulling their weight equally, including:

  • Consistently missing deadlines or failing to complete their assigned tasks, putting a strain on the rest of the team.
  • Not actively participating in meetings or decision-making processes, leaving others to carry the weight.
  • Not bringing in new clients or contributing to business growth, relying solely on the efforts of other partners.
  • Not putting in the same level of effort or time as other partners, leading to an unequal distribution of work and responsibility.
  • Not investing the same amount of money into the business as other partners, which can create financial imbalances and strain the partnership.

It’s important to address the situation and have an open and honest conversation with your partner about your concerns. You can also consider setting clear expectations and goals for each partner, establishing a system for tracking progress, and holding each other accountable. If the issue persists, you may need to explore options such as restructuring the partnership or finding a new partner who shares your vision and work ethic.

How to Find a Business Partner?

  • Define Your Needs: Before you start searching for a business partner, it’s essential to define what you need in a partner. Determine what skills, experience, and values are necessary to complement your own. This will help you narrow down potential candidates.
  • Networking: Networking is a great way to meet potential business partners. Attend industry events, join business groups, and participate in online forums to meet people with similar interests and goals.
  • Referrals: Reach out to your network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to see if they know anyone who may be interested in partnering with you. Referrals can be a great way to find a partner who is trustworthy and reliable.
  • Online Platforms: There are many online platforms that can connect you with potential business partners. LinkedIn, AngelList and CoFoundersLab are some examples of platforms that specialize in helping entrepreneurs find partners.
  • Conduct Interviews: Once you have a list of potential partners, conduct interviews to assess their skills, experience, and compatibility with your business. Ask questions about their background, work style, and long-term goals to ensure they align with your own.
  • Legal Advice: Before finalizing any partnership, it’s essential to seek legal advice. Consult with a lawyer to draft a partnership agreement that outlines each partner’s responsibilities, equity ownership, and dispute resolution methods.

When looking for a new business partner, ensure that you find the right fit and avoid ending up with a difficult partner like your past experience.

Be clear about your expectations and communicate them effectively. This includes being upfront about your values, mission, and goals for the business, as well as your preferred communication and decision-making styles.

Conduct a thorough background check and due diligence on potential partners. Check their professional references, verify their qualifications and experience, and conduct a review of their business reputation.

It is also a good idea to take the time to get to know potential partners on a personal level, to see if you have compatible personalities and work styles. Have open and honest conversations about your personal and professional backgrounds, as well as your interests, hobbies, and values.

My Business Partner Is Not Aligned with the Company’s Values and Mission

Dealing with a business partner who is not aligned with the company’s values and mission can be a challenging situation. It can create a disconnect between the partner and the company, which can lead to conflicts and ultimately harm the business. For example,

  • Your company values honesty and transparency, but your business partner is being secretive and dishonest in their dealings with clients and suppliers.
  • Your company is focused on social responsibility and sustainability, but your business partner consistently disregards environmental regulations and engages in practices that harm the environment.
  • Your company is committed to treating employees fairly and providing a positive work environment, but your business partner has a history of mistreating employees and creating a toxic workplace.
  • Your company is dedicated to innovation and growth, but your business partner is resistant to change and refuses to invest in new technology or explore new markets.
  • Your company values teamwork and collaboration, but your business partner constantly undermines their colleagues and tries to take credit for their work.

Situations as such can arise due to various reasons, such as a change in the partner’s personal values or a lack of understanding of the company’s vision.

Taking Proactive Measures to Align Your Partner with Company Values and Mission

  • Revisit your company’s values and mission statement: Start by revisiting your company’s values and mission statement to make sure they are clear and well-communicated. This will help your business partner understand the values and vision of the company and how they can align their goals with those of the company.
  • Discuss the misalignment with your partner: Schedule a meeting with your partner to discuss the misalignment and understand their perspective. Ask them to explain their values and how they see their role in the company. This will give you an opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings and work towards finding a common ground.
  • Identify areas of agreement and disagreement: During the meeting, try to identify areas of agreement and disagreement. This will help you find common ground and build on it. It’s important to listen actively and empathetically to your partner’s concerns and opinions.
  • Create an action plan: Once you have identified areas of disagreement, work with your partner to create an action plan to align them with the company’s values and mission. This plan should include clear goals and objectives, timelines, and responsibilities.
  • Monitor progress and make adjustments: Monitor your partner’s progress towards aligning with the company’s values and mission. If necessary, make adjustments to the action plan to ensure that you are both on the same page. Remember that alignment with the company’s values and mission is an ongoing process and requires continuous effort and commitment.

If you find yourself dealing with a difficult partner, you might feel, ‘I want to close my business and walk away!’ Don’t make any rash decisions yet. Seek the help of experienced legal counsel to evaluate the situation, understand your legal rights and potential remedies and  take proactive steps to address the situation. By doing so, you may be able to improve the situation and avoid the need to close your business.

If you are looking for professional legal services for your business, get in touch with Brown & Charbonneau, LLP. We offer a range of legal services, including business formation, contracts, and dispute resolution, to help ensure your business runs smoothly. Visit our website to learn more about what legal services you can benefit from and schedule a consultation today.