22. What should I do if my business partner is not pulling their weight?

Running a business is tough. With risk to manage, cash flow to control, and relationships to build with key stakeholders such as your bank manager and accountant, there is often little time for anything else.

Many business owners find themselves working around the clock to drive the business forward, and this can be made all the more difficult when working with a business partner who does not appear to be pulling their fair share of the weight.

Research show that nearly 80% of business partnerships do not survive. Managing issues proactively therefore is a key element to ensuring a partnership’s sustainability.

Growing Pains

As businesses grow, it is not uncommon for tensions to develop between partners, for example where one dedicates themselves entirely to the enterprise, with the other remaining in full time employment.

It may be that one partner no longer has the drive and passion required to live a life of entrepreneurship. It may be that a lack of appropriate skills in light of the size of the business is an issue; an under-performing partner may be undertaking a role which they are not equipped to succeed in.

Whatever the reason, it is important to tackle such an issue sensitively. There may be a very good reason why one partner is no longer contributing at the same level as they were previously.

With a growing business, the skills required to keep it moving forward evolve as time passes. If it is the case that one partner doesn’t have the right skills, or is in the wrong role, it could be unfair to simply consider them a lazy partner.

The only way to get to the root cause of the issue it to have an open, honest discussion, and tackle the problem head on.

It’s good to talk

Communication is key to the success of any business partnership. If you are concerned about the effort being put in by your business partner, how you approach the issue could determine how successful an outcome you reach.

Business partners are after all, human. They are emotional beings, and opening a two way dialogue to discuss your concerns is the professional thing to do.

If one or more partners are not pulling their weight, a regular board meeting will give the other partners the opportunity to share their feedback, and allow the management team to work together to explore any necessary changes that may need to be made.

Regular management meetings are critical to review not only business progress, but to evaluate each business partner’s performance and behaviour in line with the objectives of the business.

Having clearly defined objectives, aligned to each partner’s role within the business is important, as it allows for objective conversations to be had when tackling the issue of underperformance. If everyone is clear as to what they are expected to achieve, a much more constructive conversation can be had if the business objectives aren’t being met.

Underperformance, or the issue of a partner not pulling their weight, can be difficult to tackle if it is simply viewed subjectively.

Often, business owners look to solve internal problems by bringing in external assistance, in the shape of a part time director for example. Whilst this can have its merits, initially at least, it simply adds another layer of complexity which needs to be unravelled before the business can move forward.

More important than this is getting to the heart of the issue together, after all, your business partner is likely to have invested considerable time and perhaps money in getting the business to where it is now. They are unlikely to want to see it fail due to a lack of effort on their part.

There is no secret formula which will turn an underperforming partner around. It requires an alignment of each partners’ business goals, and ensuring that the right people, with the requisite skills, are doing the right job for the current requirements of the business.

To find out more about what to do if a business partner isn’t pulling their weight, or if you would like to discuss any of the topics covered above further with Tectona Partnership, please contact Mark Nicholls on 07818 407061 or Ronnie Epstein on 07543 275902.

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