If you want a healthy business, prepare your battle plan. I’m not talking about battling your competition. I’m talking about handling conflict with your business partners.
When most people go into business together, they’re not thinking about conflict. They’re usually on great terms, and excited about starting something new together. Not that much different than a newly engaged couple.
But given time, conflict is inevitable in any human relationship. Business owners are usually smart and driven people. They don’t lay down easily.
The key to managing conflict effectively is to assume it will happen, and to prepare for it ahead of time.
First, you must develop the discipline of meeting and communicating regularly with your business partners– no less than once per month—to talk through any issues pertinent to running your business together. That may include a review of financial metrics, schedules, work priorities; any strategic issues; personnel matters, etc. … and holding one another accountable to any commitments you may have made.
Silence allows tensions to fester.
So, one item that should be at the top of your agenda for each of these meetings is “tension points.” This is a time for you to air any tensions with your partners that may have arisen since your last meeting. It forces you to deal with problems early on, rather than letting them grow to the point that there is too much history and emotion to handle them effectively.
Developing the discipline of meeting regularly – at least once a month, and getting issues on the table quickly will go a long way toward preventing dysfunction in your relationships with your business partners.
In our next segment, we’ll talk about some ground rules for addressing conflict, and some simple tactics for navigating an impasse.