Ending a business partnership correctly can be a good thing.
Humans are interesting creatures, and our relationships show just how interesting we can be. A couple of teammates on my college judging team were in a serious dating relationship that went south; both were great people, but in the process they went from lovers to enemies. I always thought that was such a shame. Yet, I have had a business partnership and a friendship end in a way where I wouldn’t call us enemies, but there is little contact; the relationship is severed, seemingly permanently. There is always a sense of regret when things end this way.
Perhaps ending a business relationship is much like getting a divorce. One side usually doesn’t want the relationship to end, and there is no denying that the deeper the bond, the more difficult it is to cut. I read a story that detailed the importance of establishing, at the outset of a business relationship/partnership, how it should end in order to make the process painless and to avoid the confrontations that inevitably emerge. It made sense, but it seems a little like putting together a divorce agreement on your honeymoon.
It always makes sense to plan for success rather than anticipating failure. Perhaps a more constructive approach to prevent disagreements from becoming unsolvable deal breakers is to understand that there will inevitably be disagreements and outline how these disagreements will be dealt with.
I have yet to get involved in a relationship where both sides didn’t want to work out the vision; the goals have always been shared or compatible. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be problems and usually, they are the result of ineffective communication. There are hundreds of books written on the differences in communication styles, but we still do a terrible job in this regard. Once communication is compromised or one side stops communicating, there is little hope to fix the problems and they usually only fester if not addressed.
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It is probably impossible to anticipate all the problems that might arise in a business relationship, but there are some discussions that would be constructive if conducted prior to when the problems crop up; hold regular meetings to discuss how the relationship is advancing. Marriage counselors have great advice on conflict resolution and fighting fair. While business partnerships are usually handled more professionally than personal relationships, it is naïve to assume that there won’t be difficulties in a business relationship.
And yes, just like a marriage, business relationships should be fought for. But unlike a marriage which represents the ultimate commitment, there should also be preparations made to dissolve the partnership with minimum hardship to the partners. When a dispute ends up in court, there has been a colossal failure of communication, or you made a critical error in judgment about who you partnered with.
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