The voice on the other end of the phone said, “I’ve written my resignation letter. I can’t take it any more.” Those were the words of a friend ten years ago when he called me in desperation. He was in a financially very successful partnership but one of the partners was consistently making life miserable and my friend had had enough.
“You’re not walking away from this because of a bully,” I said. “You’re going to hire me as your coach and we’re going to get through this together.” “Ok,” he said. “What does that look like?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, “Give me forty-eight hours.”
I got back to him with a coaching package and thus began my adventure as an executive coach. Seven years later he was the last man standing when a private equity group bought the company.
From that very first client to the many partnership clients I’ve worked with since, I have seen the ugly side of partnerships coming apart. It is extremely costly not just in financial terms but also in the relational damage to the partners, their employees, their clients, their families and everyone around them. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
My biggest take-a-way from working with broken partnerships is this: It’s not about the money. The partnerships I’ve seen dissolve have not done so because there wasn’t enough money – but rather because of the intangible things; the soft stuff. It has been ego, position, title, or hurt feelings, that have destroyed the partnerships I’ve worked with, but it is almost never about the money.
Most people enter into a partnership because they believe the other person or persons bring something to the business that would cause it to be better than if they did it alone. That’s probably true. Different people bring different things to a working relationship and that is a good thing. When a partnership begins to break, it is usually because one of the partners no longer values what the other partner(s) are bringing to the table. But they don’t get there overnight. They don’t wake up one day and suddenly decide to end their partnership. The decision comes after months or years of relational neglect.
To get the most out of a partnership it takes work. Relationship work. And that’s not easy.
Great partnerships require investment, and not just financial investment, but relational investment as well. A partnership by definition involves two or more people, coming together for a common purpose. Here’s a fact of life: People have issues. People – you and I – have ego’s, emotions and a lifetime of baggage we bring to any relational engagement. But most businesses will spend more money on their office furniture than they will on their relationship with their partner(s).
A great partnership requires an investment that is more than the financial capital invested. It requires a relational investment as well, and when you make the relational investment you can avoid the above pitfalls and focus on building a great business.
The investment you make in your partnership – working on the business not just in the business – will help you avoid the burden of devolving into the pit of relationship hell, from which there is no turning back.
If you’re in a partnership – whether it’s a great one or a struggling one – it’s never too soon to invest in your partnership.
Let me help you avoid the pitfalls and build a great, successful and enjoyable partnership.Give me a call or shoot me an email and let’s discuss how I can help you with the relationship side of your partnership.