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How to Deal with Difficult Business Partners

All successful companies have one thing in common. On average, they carry more assets than they do liabilities. These companies are also quick to take note when something that was once an asset now has become a liability. They either try to make this new liability an asset again or they swiftly remove it from the company. This process may sound easy enough unless the liability you are thinking of is your relationship with your business partner. Business partners, whether you realize it or not, are engaged in a kind of professional marriage. Like a marriage, you come together in the beginning with a common goal of building toward a shared vision. This may have worked for a while, but now one or both of you have changed just enough to no longer fit so perfectly with the other anymore. Who’s the problem? Maybe you’re both ok, but you’re just no longer ok together. Studies show that many people running companies tend to be type “A” personalities. Chances may be that you and your partner have just realized that you’re both dominant personality types. The underlying cause of the “dis-ease” is that maybe you’re both too strong willed with not enough willingness to accommodate the other. Our philosophy here at The Goldhill Group isn’t necessarily that opposites attract and fit well together either. We believe that it’s more about complements coming together that are really more compatible in the long run. We believe that there’s still a chance that you can get through to you difficult business partner and eliminate the dis-ease that has become your relationship. To do this, it’s important that we get you on a strong business partnership detoxification program. It’s important that we focus on getting rid of all the emotions considered to be toxic to your partnership and that alone eliminates a lot of the dis-ease you’ve come to know. Emotions like anger, resentment, jealousy, suspicion and bitterness are all highly toxic emotions. By managing your perceptions and increasing your skills to deal with your difficult partner, we can eliminate these self-defeating emotions. Here are some steps on how to do that. 1. Focus on effective communication and not necessarily more communication. You can communicate all day long with your partner, but if it’s not effective then you’re getting nowhere. Learn effective communication techniques. The key is to listen more and speak moderately and in a well thought out manner. 2) Neutralize your perception of them. Contrast is the most amazing thing for perception sometimes. Get outside of your workplace environment and shift your focus of conversation to something outside of your work. 3) Shower them with praise. The quickest way to a business partner’s heart just may be through their ego. Validate them for their contributions and make sure they know you see their value to your company. Send them appreciation emails. Three lines are about all it takes to let someone know you recognize what they did for the company. 4) Communicate trust. The less trust you have the more friction you’re going to build in your partnership. Show them ways that they can trust you. Find ways to build your trust in them. Show them regularly that you do trust them. 5) Consider the fact that maybe it’s you that’s become hard to get along with. Sometimes by trying to fix the other person we’re going about things backwards. Try fixing yourself and you may end up fixing your partner as a result. 6) Eliminate the “you” vs. “them” mentality. Train yourself to think and talk always in terms of “us” and “we” when speaking to your partner. They’ll be quick to pick up on it. 7) Show them that you’re not greedy. You’re working to build the same money pile for most part anyway. Send them a client that you could have taken for yourself. Do anything to demonstrate your willingness to share. 8) Show them that you have their back. People resist you and put up walls out of fear of losing something. Maybe it’s their pride. Maybe it’s money. Let them see you looking out for them and not out to get something from them. 9) Ask their opinion on a variety of decision making topics. Follow their opinion with, “I think you’re making a good point.” 10) Let them shine as well. Don’t take every opportunity to be the spokesperson for your team. On that next speaking opportunity, let them do it or at least ask them if they would like to. Offer to let them write that article for that next company newsletter. Most people act in a problematic or difficult manner because they have a source or multiple sources of agitation. Find out what those agitations may be for your difficult business partner. Once you know what it is, maybe then you can work to alleviate their pain. If you’ve tried all of this and nothing works, then maybe it’s time to rid yourself of this emotional liability. Good luck in making that determination.


Contact us if you need help. Our coaching has proven effective with family-owned businesses and partnerships. And, we offer a “Business Breakthrough Planning Session” complimentary to determine if coaching is right for you and your business.





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Author:. Jonathan Goldhill, CEO/Head Coach of The Goldhill Group, provides coaching for growing companies.  Jonathan is a growth consultant, business owner, business coach, sales coach and marketing coach based in Los Angeles, CA that has been guiding mostly local, small, family-owned, privately-held and mid-market business owners, managers and sales professionals build better businesses since 1987. He can be reached at (818) 716-8826 or emailed at Jon@TheGoldhillGroup.com. Go Deeper | Website