People choose business partners for many reasons, and not always for the right ones. Sometimes, two people come up with an idea together and assume this means sticking together to develop and sell the idea. You might choose a partner solely because that person compliments your strengths and weaknesses so well. And at times, partners need some much-needed capital to the table.
All of these are good qualities to have in a partner, but they can’t tell you much about whether or not your partnership will succeed or fail. Instead, you should make absolutely sure that you understand your partner’s conflict resolution style. That is the only way you’ll be capable of succeeding.
What kind of conflict resolution style creates the best results? A resilient one. Your partner has to be someone who is capable of persevering in the face of conflict.
People who persevere in the face of hardship aren’t actually as rare as people who persevere in the face of conflict. When you start a business both you and your partner probably already know that hardship is inevitable. A vital piece of equipment will break at exactly the wrong moment. Cash flow might dry up. Vendors could fall through.
When all of the stars are aligned, you and your partner can tackle these problems with some fantastic entrepreneurial synergy. You’ll solve every problem and you’ll take the business to new heights. But it won’t always work out that way.
Instead, sometimes you and your partner will come into conflict—deep conflict—about how to solve these problems.
Note that you both want the same things. You both want a business that generates steady profits and grows in a healthy way. But you’ll both have a hard time remembering that you have the same goal when you feel it’s time to scale back production on an underperforming product and your partner feels that it’s time to sink another $100,000 into aggressively marketing the thing.
So why perseverance?
Conflict isn’t pleasant. Not everyone can take it. Some partners start withdrawing after hitting this kind of speed bump. Some grow passive-aggressive, giving you surface agreement while undermining your every effort from then on out. Some decide to leave the business. Any of these actions can hurt your endeavor.
Someone who is comfortable with conflict won’t do that. Instead, they’ll keep right on hashing it out with you until some conclusion is reached. You need someone who is capable of communicating clearly and pleasantly, because when the conflict is complete you’ll need to choose a course of action and move forward as a unified team. You’ll have to do it without resentment, and you will have to avoid holding it over anyone’s head if the chosen course of action turns out to be the wrong one. You’ll have to make a commitment to roll with any new punches as they come along.
This is why I don’t even consider taking on business partners if I haven’t known the other person for at least 5 years. It takes about that long for me to feel as though I truly understand how the person responds to both stress and conflict.
Of course, the reverse applies as well. You have to be able to handle stress and conflict in an appropriate way, too. Don’t get into a partnership until you’ve taken a good, hard look in the mirror. You may find that you’ll require some additional personal development before you’re ready to proceed. There’s no sense finding a partner who won’t withdraw if you’re likely to withdraw instead!