I've been having major difficulties with my business partner for a new venture we're trying to grow. Any tips/advice for remedying the situation?
I just started a new venture with a business partner, who is a personal friend of mine. We formed the concept together - however, as I am the type of person who works quickly and quite hard to implement ideas, I have done the vast majority of the grunt work and outreach. My partner, though nice and innovative, has been a lot lazier and less passionate about our project. She prefers to do things on her "own time" and only do the absolute minimum of work possible. She gets defensive when I confront her, saying things like, "It's not like our business will die if we don't work on it for a while."
Our venture definitely has potential - we've received highly positive feedback from our audience. Its success would mean so much to me - though I know she wants the same, she is not willing to work for it, and she doesn't have the drive.
How can I motivate my partner and, in the event that she refuses to put in the hard work yet again, get her to leave the project? I have other colleagues who are just as hardworking and passionate about this as I am, but she is a co-founder. What should I do? Any advice/tips would be greatly appreciated.
Honestly, that's a difficult situation to be in with any partner. I think what's really important, even more important than moving the business forward, is coming to an agreement as to HOW the business will move forward.
For example, I too partnered with two individuals and we all contribute differently to bring about the business as a whole. In much of what we have done, there has been a LOT of discussion. Some people, myself included, could feel that little has occurred except talking. However, through experience, I am able to see that we are continually refining our business model and process. We move forward in those things that we can, and hold off on the things that are not yet ready.
I have one partner who I've noticed tends to hold off on completing items for a little bit when he does not feel settled on the course we have selected. Until we have the time to discuss further and agree on a better path, or affirm the same one, we don't really move forward as a team.
So, I want to point out a couple things based off of what you said, and the example I just shared:
1. You need to discuss expectations with your partner. When do you expect to have this work done? Will you split it into bite size portions? How will it pay either of you? <-- This is a big one, because it takes a special type of person to be motivated towards an idea for which they are not yet being paid, or for which they may have to work for a year without pay.
I want to make it clear: This is not your opportunity to lay into your partner for their laziness. This is your opportunity to listen to your partner and understand what her goals are in life, and work, and with this business, and see if those coordinate with what the business needs.
For example, I had the opportunity to move recently which would have separated my partners and I. This was a financially positive decision, but in the end I chose to stay local. Why? The business. Commitment is important, but you can't demand it, you have to cultivate it.
2. If your partner is unmotivated/uncommitted to the idea then perhaps you need to find a new partner. However, be darn sure before you go suggesting that you oust her- that will only cause bad blood otherwise. In the event that your partner truly is unmotivated though, they should have no problem with holding a reduced equity share and losing their managerial position and rights. Any reasonable person would agree to that.
However, in the case that they don't, your partner either too highly values their contribution, or you are valuing them too low.
Hope that helps! Good luck!
Tricky situation, one I've been in myself, where I'm doing all the work and have tried to discuss the situation on multiple occasions.
I ended up sitting him down and started to discuss reducing his equity in the business based on the amount of input he was putting in. It worked in his case and he started pulling his weight and engaging with the employees to drive the business forward.
Smells like imminent dissolution coming. Plan for an exit strategy to buy her out. There are some good tips here to try but these things don't usually get better. Or you can choose the Zen route and only worry about yourself, let her be as she is.
Leadership is about motivating your peers and staff working with you. As a leader, you need to understand the reasons behind what demotivates your partner in this case which resulted in her loosing the drive to push on. Alternatively, as a leader, you should also look into yourself. Are you too pushy and not providing your partner sufficient information or clear her doubts to enable her decide to work with you in your direction? Most of all, try to understand her and draw out her fears or doubts, if any before making any harsh decision. She is your partner after all and you need to gain her trust and make her comfortable on your ventures.
Seems to me this should be like exiting any unsuccessful relationship - we tried - BUT. You must have had similar situations with others. How did you exit those relationships. If you want to carry somebody with whom you are not culturally compatible that's up to you. Starting and growing a business is a team effort wherein every member has to play their part or else just like with any team effort it will fail.
I think Dan makes a good point and some good observations for you to consider.Also to add like most partners there will be differences ,like you putting in the donkey work ,whilst perceiving She isnt pulling her weight, What are her strong points and deploy them accordingly , You may be surprised that your work load will reduce . But as Dan mentioned get a streamlined and agreed approach and go from there, but also remember there will be some traits you will have to tolerate but dont loose sight of the bigger picture, consider some training or coaching but dont focus on what she is not doing and focus on what she is doing but make the expectations clear with time frames etc and hopefully with tiime all will pan out.Hope this helps a little.
I would suggest that you never have a partnership with anyone who requires motivation. Only be partners with those that are already motivated and have invested personal money.
Let's say that there are other issues and that you are misinterpreting the situation. You can each complete an assessment that will determine whether there are motivativations, management style, mental make up, and lot's more. I would have a professional offer and interpret the assessments. I am NOT speaking of MEYER BRIGGS as that would not be what you really require. Once the professional assessments are completed you will know more accurately what the issues really are. If your friend is a good idea person, but not good for much else, then possibly she would consider a more passive role vs an active partner, and less partnership interest. On the other hand, some valued partners require funding in oeder to survive the start-up phase so that they are able to commit mopre comfortably. All of those require a very personal discussion. Somtimes an independent mediator could be where you start. This method will go a long way in preserving your friendship as well.
It is almost impossible to understand the dynamic of your situation from a short post.
I would offer the following from anyone weighing a partnership:
* Before starting, detail the contributions and work product expected from each party
* Never go into business with close friends--or family--just my experience
* Be sure that you have complimentary skills, not overlapping abilities
Firstly, do you have any form of shareholders agreement? If so, the basis for your next steps lie there.
If not (and I suspect it's a not, given you're friends) then you need to lay out and agree the path forward. A good tool for this is what I have variously seen called an "equity trajectory" or "value map". One one axis is commercial development, on the other is technology/service/product development (pick the one that suits your business). Lay out the major milestones in generating value you have achieved and still need to achieve. Ideally you're trying to step up and across and up and across to milestones and progress as close as possible to a 45 degree line between the two to maximise enterprise value.
Develop that map with your partner so she shares in it's creation. Now you have a shared language about the pathway. Otherwise you're just setting yourself up for more destructive confrontation. Once you have the map agreed then agree timeframes for the milestones and consequences for failure.
Doing this will get you and your partner to quickly see the respective levels of commitment and you'll find out whether the "go slow" has more to do with other reasons that haven't made it out of the subtext yet. Now you know where you stand, otherwise you'll just be arguing round and round the mulberry bush without an anchor point.
Laying out the map also let's you both come to a reasonable and more objective consideration of each other's respective performance and desire to move ahead. You might find this is a watershed moment with little grief. She chooses to step aside or pull her weight. If it's the latter you must have a structure in place to deal with the same issue repeating in the future.
So I suggest you design a vesting structure. You set an enterprise value based on where you are on the value map in terms of milestones achieved and agree a valuation and a share of input to date. Can be 50/50 or 99/1, you decide together. you agree so many shares are to be issued to each partner accordingly. Then, as each milestone gets ticked off you review performance in these terms and vest new equity based on that performance. That way a slacker quickly gets diluted and it is fair and reasonable. If you have a shareholder's agreement then might need to be amended to cover off decision making.
Alternatively you pull the pin on the venture altogether and start afresh on your own. But as others have said, what is more important, the business or the friendship?
In any partnership deal, you would be wise to proceed with caution if you would like to avoid a lawsuit. The value of the business, and its potential future revenue could come into play. You must both agree on the way the business is run if you are 50/50 partners. If you have 51%+ ownership, then you have a dominant position. A neutral third party consultant/mediator could be the cure, because you might be able to put in place performance requirements that are linked to ownership percentages. You might also identify different roles that she could absorb, such as more PR work, or whatever fits with her skill-set and personality.
One way to grow the company is to hire a Board of Directors who want to invest in the company. They may invest time, money, or both, in exchange for stock options. The company doesn't have to be a publicly traded company. The Board would then have the power to hire and fire.
Hi Bryan. Been there - very similar situation a while back. My advice? Get out. You can each pursue the idea, but separately. I appreciate everyone's advice, and I have no sour grapes here, but...if she's this way now, how bad will it be when there's actual work to be done?
Also consider - you do all the work and she reaps the rewards. Huge potential for bitterness on your end. The Little Red Hen story comes to mind.
I would start thinking of ways (if possible) to divide the business. If it's very early and there are no commitments, explain where you are mentally and part ways. Allow her to pursue it in her own manner, but not a part of "your" company.
Specific to my situation, it eventually ended with us closing the doors. The lack of enthusiasm and work ethic was unbearable, so I moved on. He went to work for the government. Go figure.
Get a third party to talk this through; a coach, arbitrator, etc.. You need a neutral person to hear both sides and understand the stake both of you have in the business. Utilize that information to make your decision. Your partner needs to understand the risks and consequences of her actions in the business.
Then make your decision to go forward or dissolve the partnership with the information you now have. Don't dawdle, just decide.
Write up an exit strategy agreement immediately! I went into business with my "best friend" and we had a similar situation to yours and ended up worst enemies in court. We did not have an agreement in, place because, hey... we're good friends. Trust me on this one.
be pragmatic. define the minimum hours you think each one of you should put in, define the mission and also have a tool to estimate results. this way it will move from "nice to have" to a project management "rules of the game" if she is committed, that's good, if not... you can understand the situation... there is non symmetric passion in partnership, yet you need to evaluate her motivation and time priorities and decide if it fits your tolerance.
There are many views to what you are describing as your "major difficulty".
The first view I see is personality conflict. You will have this with anyone, even someone that you believe is just like you. You seem to be a perfectionist, worker bee...I know because I too am that personality type. However, passion, though measured in activity is not always the only measurement. Adjectives like "Lazy and Less Passionate" are a no,no; simply because they are judgements based on activity. If you followed a famous author in the writing process you would find out that they do not write a book in a day. It does not all come pouring out of them at once. Some people are "thinkers" and others are "doers". It would be safe to say that your "friend" (first mistake in business ventures) is a "thinker", because you reiterated that she is a co-founder. This means she helped in some capacity, correct? Sometimes working with friends is a no,no...All of the time judging people by activity is a no,no.
Reassess the situation. Lay out the mission. Assign the roles. Just believe there is a role for her and this way you can continue your success without any legal issues, or mental stress. Keep your friend and continue your success.
Hi Bryan, It sounds as if your partner has lost some interest in the business concept that you formed together. I think if you sit down with her and ask her what her vision is for the business is and how she sees her role in this concept, you will get a good idea of her engagement. Possibly she just wants to be engaged with the concept idea and not in the implementation of the commercialization of this idea. If this is the case then you are better off going off on your own.
As long as you don't have a formal partnership agreement then it would be easy to end this business relationship without losing a friend. Unless both of you are on the same page with a clear vision and division of duties and expectations, I'm afraid you will be in for a rough ride, friend or no friend.
You need to sit her down and talk. the talk "its not like it will die if we don't work for a while" is not heading your business in the right direction. I presume you both came to the idea for the startup together, and it seems that most of here involvment from her site was brainstorming the idea? Well there are a lot of ideas, good and bad, and having a good idea without fast and hard work on bringing it to market makes any idea - just an idea - worth very little. Because at tha same time there are probably a few other teams working on the same or similar idea.
Talk to your partner, sincerely about the situation, make a strict agreement on your mutual obligations and set rules what will happen if partner does not do his part of the work. Define to your partner how much this projects means to you what you will do, and expect the same effort from her. If she does not agree, then suggest that you split the partnerhip. in the end with her stalling on her part will put the venture in problems and you will end with nothing, or very little.
Don't know the current status of the project but in really problematic situation sometimes it is easier to simply open another company and restart the project under a new name (that depends on how dod you go on the project by now).
Hi Bryan - as what you describe regards interaction between humans, let's focus only on what works 100% ;-)
And this NLP-based strategy will save your friendship and get your venture on track, including your partner (who will motivate themselves now - yes, you read that correctly).
The strategy is called 'chunking' and determines when is wise to get higher level/general info (chunking up) vs getting lower level/detailed focus (chunking down). There is no space or need here (ever!) to get into previously unproductive human factors. It is focused on positive outcomes to achieve the desired results. That's right.
Here's the key: ideal negotiation happens at the highest chunk-up level. Only then chunk down (only as far as needed to get into details needed to achieve the positive outcomes you negotiated by chunking up). Otherwise, your negotiations fail as they are mired in details and conflict (as you wrote).
Private message me to let me know how to empower you further.
To your venture's stress-free success Byron.
Congratulations on your new venture Bryan. To be very candid, you may have already seen the red flags or the writings on the wall. Do yourself and your partner a great deed and consider buying her out...for your friendship and sanity. Then, your can hire her as a consultant and compensate her with shares,