“I work harder than you do”
Partners tend to overvalue their own contribution and undervalue their partner’s. Typical thinking: “Man, I’m breaking my back here, and one of my partners is taking it easy-taking four weeks vacation in the summer and not contributing nearly as much as I am.”
Expert advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Recognize that you and your partner may have different work patterns. He may take four weeks in the summer, but work more hours through the week; she may take work home rather than toiling at the office. Employment contracts specifying each partner’s role and performance expectations can help.
“We can’t talk anymore”
Partners may be so caught up in day-to-day work they lose touch with each other’s goals and plans. After a few years of this, you find you’ve grown irreparably apart.
Expert advice: Schedule some kind of meeting at least twice a year in which you talk broadly about your relationship with the business and each other. “If one partner wants to retire in five years, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to the other,” says Jim Hatch, a professor at the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business.
“You want your son to take over?”
A partnership may go along swimmingly for years, but bring family into the equation and you could be in for stormy weather.
Expert advice: Make succession planning an ongoing process. As the business grows, you may want to bring in professional managers to decide whether family members are qualified for leadership roles. And whether you want your daughter to be a principal in the company or just to have a summer job, discuss it with your partner.
“We make toilets. What do you mean you want to get into sinks?”
Entrepreneurs can sometimes have widely diverging visions of where the business is headed.
Expert advice: Strategic planning should be ongoing. Questions to keep top of mind include: How will we finance the business? How quickly will we grow? What steps will we take to penetrate markets or develop products? “These things are not unique to a multi-owner business,” says Don Olson, a lawyer at Giffen Lee LLP in Kitchener, Ont. with many family-business clients. “But having more than one owner complicates things further because you have more than one point of view.”
“I just don’t want to do this anymore”
Your partner may want to pursue new avenues or quit work altogether.
Expert advice: Don’t take it personally, and ensure an exit mechanism is in place.