Communication the key in any partnership

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Terry Sage of Trades Coaching New Zealand

Terry Sage of Trades Coaching New Zealand says communicating between partners about anything, big or small, is vital for the success of any business — or personal relationship for that matter.

How many of you are in a partnership, either with your best mate or the one you mate with? Is it easy? Has it all been plain sailing?

Was there a period in the beginning when it was fun every day, but now it’s a bit different?

I’m not trying to start this column by being negative, but these things are common, and can even be a positive in some cases.

I had to mediate a meeting the other day between two business owners, (non-mating best mates) five years into their business.

Their perception was the wheels had fallen off and there was no chance of getting back on track after they had, in their words, “a little spat”.

Don’t panic, feel sorry or start a give a little page, not just yet anyway. The boys are back on track, albeit with slightly dented egos, and they had to swallow a bucket load of pride. But happy days are here again.

Just to put the whole scenario into perspective and reality, what these two lads have just been through is more common than you think, and the reasons behind what happened are even more common.

When I listened to their issues, to me they were relatively minor and all easily fixable. It was the underlying issues that had heightened tension and stress, which made a non-issue, actually a series of non-issues, into World War Three.

The underlying issue was nothing more than the lack of dollars in the bank. There had been a stretch in the cashflow due to a major blow out of moving into new offices.

The little issues have been building on top of that, and have been blown out of all proportion.

The fix? Really simple — $50k would have done it, but that wasn’t going to happen in a hurry so, step two, let’s have a chat boys.

The good old communication technique. I wish I could have patented this approach — I would be able to buy Google with my annual interest payments.

Once a little spat has happened though, taking that first step to having a chat can feel like climbing Everest. So do yourselves a favour and use a mediator.

I will throw in here there’s a completely different dynamic when the situation is between husband and wife than it is between mates.

Husbands and wives quite often have their own way of sorting spats, and it could be as simple as no dinner and no mating — and that’s where we will leave that scenario.

Back to my two lads — their little spat has highlighted some gaps in their structure, so take some notes here to see what you have in place.

They have a generic constitution which has never been read and doesn’t relate to their business.

They do not have a shareholder agreement to fall back on to sort out “issues”. There are no documented job descriptions for either of the shareholder/directors, which would have solved two of the minor issues.

They had stopped having regular management meetings, so there was no communication. There is no long-term plan with set goals to work towards, and no cashflow forecast to manage the relocation expenditure and disruption in normal play.

None of it is rocket science — in fact, all of it is standard stuff, but I find that most of it is so often not in place.

Here’s a final word of advice — put everything mentioned above into place and do it quickly. It will take many hours and, if you get help, some big dollars. Then tell me in 30 years’ time it was all a complete waste as you never had a chance to use any of it.

You would have had a very successful partnership, in business and personally speaking!