I’ve read of several business partnerships ending in not such pleasant circumstances lately and it makes me wonder what the ultimate fall out will be for those businesses as well as the innocent staff and suppliers inevitably wrapped up in it.
There are many stories I can think of, some involving actually brands and business names being made irrelevant due to the departure of one partner. There are businesses actually closing down without notice due to an inability to resolve major disputes and just basic breakdowns in management due to miscommunication and irrational behaviour. I feel genuinely sad when I hear these stories, not least because it often means that a thriving business can seriously falter. I can’t help but compare it to any other kind of relationship – no matter how hard you try, the ripple effect can be enormous. Sure, it passes, but the risk of permanent collateral damage is real.
My wife and I first started Bitton as equal partners in 2000. Over the years we have had a partner who worked in the business with us and eventually bought that partner out. Our core business now however, Bitton Café & Bistro in Alexandria, will always remain with Sohani and me. We are equal owners not only on paper but also in the day to day management and running of the business. To my mind, this is the best move we have ever made.
Finding a balance is always an ongoing challenge, particularly with the added dynamic that we are also partners in life. It is however easy in that we are on the same life path and we already know how to communicate. However we have a few rules that we stick by in order to ensure its ongoing success. There are so many pros but we have also had to work hard at getting it right.
Regularly we come across differences of opinion and approach and being able to navigate through these respectfully, without emotion and whilst focusing on each other’s strengths is key. In all good partnerships it is important to have defined roles to make sure you are not stepping on each other’s toes – this is what ultimately starts to cause conflict.
My advice to anyone looking at taking on a partner in their existing business, or entering into a partnership with a new business, is firstly to ensure you have the same vision and purpose. Very early on we created an “owner’s objective” that highlights our individual personal and professional objectives.
Consistent communication is another essential. Meet regularly and have the hard and honest discussions early. This will give you a great insight into our new partner’s personality and will build an unwavering mutual respect and overall trust. Also try and get into the habit of talking regularly and voicing the good and the bad when it is required.
Of course our partnership is not perfect, but we hope the hard work we have put in so far will mean ours and any future partnerships will be a success and therefore so will the business attached to them. Watch this space …