Working with a business partner is both rewarding and challenging, especially at times when your venture is going through a rough patch. With different driven minds working together for the same goal, hot arguments and disagreements are evident.
Although breaking up legally is always a handy option in cases where disputes are so fragile, one can instead try out other ways of dissolving conflicts in a mutually agreeable manner. So here are some proven tactics that can help small-scale business partners solve disputes effortlessly.
Step back to identify real issues
When things are not working out, the first thing you should probably do is step back from the whole burning situation; it might worsen if emotions take over. Once you are mentally calm, try finding out the real issues at hand. Some common trouble spots for business partners include unequal work division, contradictory management styles, and unequal financial investments.
Speak up about issues
Once you have found out the actual reason behind your conflict, take initiative to discuss the misunderstandings with your partner. Try to keep your emotions at bay and be prepared to listen and negotiate. Talk beyond your disputes and review the goals of your business. Moreover, check if you both are on the same page about your business’s priorities before fixing your issues.
If you can’t schedule a meeting, you could craft a formal email to your business partner setting out both your issues and suggestions for an agreeable solution. Minconsult’s Ravi Navaratnam, the chief strategy officer, advises focusing on three key actions when addressing business conflicts: empathize, listen, and decide. Together, it proves to be one of the highly effective frameworks for negotiating.
Look for an external advisor
Despite speaking out about your business concerns, if the matter remains unresolved, you could always seek help from an external advisor or mediator. External advisors are neutral third parties who are trained to deal with several dispute situations.
Australia’s Small Business Development Corporation, for example, runs a startup-friendly council program, which was one of the first initiatives in the region. Today, 51 Western Australian towns and cities have committed to the program. This McGowan government initiative aims to recognize local councils and external advisors that actively help small businesses at rough times.
Seek legal advice
If the dispute stays unresolved even with the help of an external advisor, you should consider seeking help from a legal advisor. A lawyer can help you avoid taking your business dispute to the court by explaining your rights.
Ofir Bar, an investor in real estate and technological startups currently worth about $150 million, strongly believes that every business needs to have a formal partnership agreement that chiefly includes a detailed resolution procedure in case of disagreement, responsibilities of each partner, and lastly, a clear guideline in case both partners decide to dissolve the partnership.
When in a conflict situation, partners tend to think of only two possible options: one that works for them, and the other that works well for their partner. This suppresses any creative work style and thinking. “There needs to be an open mind that can come up with an optimal solution; the one that would work for the business altogether, and not just either of the hothead partners,” says Bar.
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