There are three aspects to any business and each one is affected differently when partners don’t see eye to eye.
- Performing the service or making the product. This is how the business makes money. It’s the work of the business. There is a process to it, a set of steps the business has improved over time to yield a quality service or product. When I run a workshop for business owners, I ask them to rate this part of the business on a scale of 1-10, (ten being highest) Most of the time they rate themselves 8-9-10. It makes sense. If they didn’t create a quality product or service, they probably would have been weeded out of the market long ago.
Do problems between partners affect this aspect of the business? Yes, partners can disagree on the process. But they can also focus on what they do best. Their disagreements don’t have to come into play in a big way because they may focus on different revenue streams, or different geographies. They can create work arounds.
- Support services that make #1 possible. Every business needs to do those services such as sales, marketing, finance, HR, planning, R&D. These don’t create/provide the product or service but are instrumental in supporting that function. In the business owner workshop usually the CEOs rate the capability of their companies in the support service realm as 6-7-8. They are not as focused on some of these support services or perhaps don’t have the resources to do them very well.
When partners disagree or are antagonistic to each other, does it affect these services? Once again partners may be able to stay out of each other’s way by hiring people for these functions. Or each may specialize in what they are good at. For instance, I know an engineering firm owned by two partners. One takes responsibility for all the engineering projects and engineering staff. The other takes responsibility for all the support services and the admin staff. They don’t get along. They’ve lost respect for each other years ago. But they can make it work by avoiding each other as much as possible.
- The culture and leadership. Every business has developed a culture. The culture is the sum total of everything that goes on. Leadership directs the culture by the communication of the vision to inspire employees, by adhering to the values and helping people align their personal values to the company values. Culture determines productivity and accountability, whether people achieve their goals and contribute to the company goals. Is the morale positive? Are people engaged and liking their work? Do they feel empowered to grow the company? Is the company benefitting from their creativity? Is there respect and inclusion? Can people communicate freely? When I ask business owners to rate their business on this aspect, they usually say 4-5-6. Yet this is the aspect of the business that touches everything and makes everything successful.
This is where battling partners destroy their businesses. There is no leadership if there are too many leaders pulling in different directions. Productivity suffers. People protect themselves and don’t step forward for big jobs or stretch projects. They disengage and become 9-to5’ers.People stop caring, especially if that’s what’s being modeled by the partners. Quality slips, accountability goes down, work habits are less disciplined. The growth that could come from creativity and innovation doesn’t happen. There are lost opportunities. The mood becomes more somber and the employees feel like they are in a war zone. It certainly makes it harder to get things done. Perhaps the business starts to lose key people.
Partner problems affect the leadership and culture of a company. Make sure to address communication between partners so your situation doesn’t spiral downward and negatively impact all aspects of your business.