You started your business with partners you respect, trust and believe would make a great ownership team. But no group of entrepreneurs is perfect. At some point, a disagreement will arise that could turn into a full-blown dispute that threatens to permanently strain the relationship and cost everyone involved a lot of money.
Knowing that arguments between business partners can be almost unavoidable can help you and your partners develop a strategy for dealing with them. Here are four tips for handling these conflicts.
- Have a clear plan. Minimizing the chances of misunderstanding is a great way of reducing the risk of a dispute. Having a plan in advance for potentially controversial subjects like how the workload is divided up helps make sure that everyone knows their rights and responsibilities clearly.
- Active listening. This is a conflict resolution technique in which two sides to a dispute each agree to take turns arguing their case for a set period, say three to five minutes. During that time, the other side listens quietly and without judgment. The focus is on resolving the conflict for the good of the business instead of one side “winning” over the other.
- Keep things in perspective. In the moment, a dispute with your partner can feel like a personal attack or a threat to the business. Try to keep things in perspective. Remember that you and your partner probably share a vision for the company and are on the same “side,” so to speak. Keeping an open mind and making the business your priority can help prevent a rift.
- Ask for help. If you cannot work out a solution on your own, consider something like mediation, a conflict resolution process involving a neutral third party.
Litigation is usually a last resort, but it can happen. Filing a suit often motivates partners to reach a reasonable settlement. But you need an experienced legal counsel to represent you in negotiations and in court, if necessary.