In This Episode

It can often feel like your business partner is your “work spouse” because you typically see so much of each other that you can finish each other’s sentences.  But does this mean that like marriage that a business partnership should be until one of you passes away?  Is this why any time you talk to your attorney or accountant they’ll ask about whether or not there is a buy/sell agreement in place, key-person life insurance, and a litany of other things?

We’ve been blessed to work with about 50 different partners over the past 20 years as business coaches.  About half of those partners were also life partners/spouses while the other half were anywhere from siblings to friends to just plain old business partners.  What we have found is that just like marriages, not all business partnerships stand the test of time.  In fact, some blow up pretty quickly.  But most tend to last longer than most marriages.  With this in mind, today we ponder the question of should a business partnership be until death do us part?

We’ve had lots of personal examples with partners in addition to having several dozen clients who are partners through the years.  Like any relationship, each of these partnerships is unique but they also have several things in common.  One of those common elements is that most people enter into business partnerships without a clear idea for how it will end.  That’s usually because early on in the business it makes more sense to see if you can sell your products or services and thus grow the business before getting into detailed discussions about how one or both of you is going to exit the business.  But at some point, you should start talking about this potential transition or ending of the partnership.

One of the things we find ourselves doing when coaching partners is having a lot of these more uncomfortable discussions.  Think of it like couples therapy for business owners.  We bring up certain questions to the partners while we are meeting with them together as well as separately.  As you might imagine, the responses often change depending who is in the room or as time goes by and these partners truly ponder some of these tough question:

  • Are there difficult discussions you avoid having with your partner out of fear it will negatively impact your work/personal relationship?
  • Who’s in charge?
  • Are there times you wish you didn’t work with a partner?
  • What do you fight about in the business?
  • When you’ve hit rough patches financially in the past how did you get through it?
  • How do each of you handle adversity?  Does it tend to bring you closer or drive a wedge between you?
  • What roles do your significant others play in the business (whether they are formally involved in the business day-to-day or not)?

We covered many of these questions in our show today.  So whether you’re relatively new to your business partnership or you’re an old pro, there should be some good stuff in here for you to dig into by yourself as well as with your business partner!