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Improving relationships with difficult business partners

There are many reasons you got into business with your partner – you trusted each other's business acumen, one of you had the funds to support the other’s vision or maybe you were friends who liked working together. Regardless of the driving decision to form the partnership, there are many reasons it can turn sour.

If your business partner is difficult to work or communicate with, consider the following tactics for improving the relationship.

1. Have the difficult conversation

Most partnership problems come from a lack of communication. This is especially true when that communication has the potential to get confrontational. However, yours and your partner’s relationship likely won’t improve if you don’t address your issues.

Find a time to meet with your partner face to face to discuss anything that might be bothering you. In many cases, your business partner is not aware that what they are doing is a problem and is willing to address it.

2. Set clear expectations

Make it a point to meet regularly with your partner to discuss each other’s expectations on current and future projects, company growth, capital investments and more. Make sure that your expectations align well with each other’s goals and are mutually beneficial.

3. Forgive each other’s mistakes

At some point, you or your business partner is going to make a mistake. Your partner may find it difficult to fix some of their behaviors or actions that bother you, even if you have discussed them together and they have committed to improving them. We’re all human, after all.

If you find yourself in the wrong, clearly apologize for the error and dedicate to doing better. And if your partner is in the wrong and similarly shows contrition, forgive them and move on.

4. Attempt mediation before dissolution

If your relationship with your business partner still doesn’t get better, don’t throw in the towel just yet - especially if you have a previous friendship with your business partner. If you end the business relationship, the friendship will almost certainly end with it.

Consider working with a mediation expert who can help you and your business partner better communicate and work with one another. A third party who can come in with an impartial perspective may shed some light on areas where you both could improve your relationship.

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Daniel S. Willard, P.C.
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Bethesda, MD 20814

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