When Business Partners Are Out of Synch

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

My uncle has a favorite story from his childhood — those halcyon days before the advent of Nintendo, Game Boy, and Play Station.  In the woods behind his house, he found a large stick.  Some days, the stick was a sword.  Other days, it was a gun.  At rare moments, it served as a periscope.  But some days, a stick was just a stick.

That’s what I thought of when I came across Gladys Edmunds’ post in USA Today online entitled “Out of Synch with Your Partner?”  Apparently, two business partners were stepping on each other’s toes, giving conflicting messages to employees.  What does that mean?  Is it a signal of impending doom?  Should I kick out my business partner before things get worse?  Is my authority being undermined?  Or simply an indication that the business model needs changing?

In my experience, it’s often the latter.  Sometimes, “a stick is just a stick.”  When you have business partners, you may have worked out a “way of being with them,” or a method for handling how the business will run.  But add others to the mix, like employees, and it’s usually the case that the business parents simply haven’t figured out who’s supposed to supervise them and make the HR decisions.  As a company grows, the business systems, like regular partner check-in meetings, tend to go by the wayside.  As a result, the partners may act at cross-purposes, without realizing it.

Suggestion:  Make team meetings a regular and sacrosanct part of your business week calendar.  When you have a regular forum to raise these issues, it’s less likely that the situations will get blown out of proportion.

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