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4 Tips on Managing Your Business Partners
Handling business partners is often a difficult task (and it puts businesses at risk). There are simple tips to leverage to make a difference, though. Here we go!
A topic came back in a few discussions over the past weeks, so when I was invited to publish some thoughts on the E27 - the Asian platform for startups - I figured there was a few things to talk about.
Working with partners is probably one of the most efficient ways to grow and scale your business, but it can also be a source of frustration for founders.
Relationships work well when things are running smoothly, but as soon as one of the people in charge becomes very opinionated, they can turn into a management battle.
This is a common situation, if only because scaling a business is all about managing people. Nevertheless, it is a concern we have to deal with on a regular basis with the entrepreneurs, founders, and top managers we coach.
However, there are some tips that can be used to make things go much smoother. All it takes is a bit of intention and patience with the implementation.
Take a moment to find out how people think
One tip we use systematically is to get founders and their managers to take a moment to find out how they think. I’m talking about personal mindsets and behaviours because these very personal traits have a huge impact on how we work and make decisions.
Some founders are quiet and don’t say much until they’ve come to a logical conclusion that works for them.
Others are extremely directive and rarely share how they arrived at a conclusion.
And some need to speak out loud to filter ideas and make up their minds.
This can obviously make communication a bit tricky, so it’s important to take a moment to observe everyone’s decision-making patterns. Doing a team profiling exercise also works well.
Learn to listen first and react later
The second leverage tip is that you (as the leader) need to learn to listen first and respond later.
Listening is key because the people around you want to be heard. Even if you decide differently in the end, listening will make them feel that you care — which is the most important part from a team dynamics perspective.
Once you’ve heard what your partners have to say, don’t rush to a decision. Tell the team that you’ll consider all their points and that you’ll take a moment to think and decide. Then tell them what you have decided and move on.
Establish clear roles and responsibilities
To do this, you need to make sure that the roles and responsibilities of the partners are set and clear. There needs to be a captain on board, whose role it is to make the decisions that will keep the ball rolling.
So, accept to be the leader and make the decisions. That’s your job!
Similarly, the other partners must have their own roles, with their own scope and responsibilities. Once these are defined, a RACI matrix is a good way to formalise them. As long as everyone knows who is responsible for what and who makes decisions, team communication tends to run much smoother.
Last tip: move on.
Your job as captain on board is to steer the boat in a certain direction – which, by the way, should be shared and clear to everyone. This means that while it is your job to consult and decide, it is also your job to keep moving forward with your own agenda.
If people can’t keep up with your pace, discuss the situation with them and find out why they can’t. If they keep blocking, ask why, ask for alternative options, but keep going. If they want to get their ideas through, they need to adapt to your pace, not the other way around.
Communication is key
To cut a long story short, if partners become a little too difficult to manage and make your role a difficult one, remember that communication plays a big part.
Communication can be verbal, but it can also be a matter of behavioural patterns along the way and a matter of role definition in the first place. Make the most of it!