Being an entrepreneur is challenging. It may be the most difficult journey that you will ever embark on. Because of this, many entrepreneurs choose to partner up with other like minded individuals, especially when they have skill sets that compliment one another.
Forming a partnership sounds attractive. Fifty percent of the burden, responsibility, finance, and stress is shouldered by someone else, and bonus, you’ll have a warm body there to comfort you should things not work out right? What could go wrong? The long and short answer is everything.
Statistics show that seventy percent of all business partnerships fail. Yup. Seven out of ten of them will go bust. I’ve gone through this twice now, incidentally, in the same business venture. Same business. Two different partners lost. I’m the last man standing.
When a business partnership fails it can be devastating. Not only do you lose a partner, friend, and confidant, but your business may also be jeopardized. I am giving to give you seven tips that will help you weather the storm and come out stronger.
TIP #1 – DON’T PLAY THE BLAME GAME
The first thing you are going to want to do is either blame yourself, or blame your ex-partner. It’s very similar to a divorce. Your ex will have their version of what happened, and you will have yours. There is no point in rehashing what you believe what went wrong. Who’s fault it was, is irrelevant at this point. It’s over. Time to move on.
Some of you will blame yourself over the failed partnership. Don’t do this-even if you genuinely believe that it was your fault. Blaming yourself is a self destructive behavior and your energy can be used better elsewhere. You may have made mistakes. You are in good company. Every entrepreneur makes mistakes. Every. Single. One. Some mistakes are larger than others, I know, but very few are final, or worse yet, fatal. Your career doesn’t have to end here. One failed business venture does not define who you are.
Every entrepreneur makes mistakes. Every. Single. One.
Analyze what happened. Acknowledge your mistakes. Own what went wrong, but don’t beat yourself up over it. You can assume responsibility without having to berate yourself or remind yourself of “how you messed up.” When you take responsibility for your situation it is empowering. When you blame everyone else for your circumstances, you are telling yourself that you have no control over what is happening to you, and that is a lie. You have total control over what is happening and complete control over how you are going to respond to it.
TIP #2 – DON’T BURN YOUR BRIDGES
These is another one of those easier said than done tips. Like a divorce, not all parties can stay friends after the separation. It is easier when at least one side is open to an amicable separation, but nothing is guaranteed.
Even if the separation is under good terms, don’t burn any bridges. You don’t have to keep the door open for a possible reunion, but why split on bad terms? You might have a partner that is going around bad mouthing you to other people. Ignore it. You might have a partner that blames the separation entirely on you. Who cares? Unless the dissolution of the business relationship is so bad that legal intervention is required, I’d recommend just letting everything the former partner does roll off your back like water to a duck.
In my case, my business partner was my Uncle. My relationship with him was more like a father & son relationship. I knew, and he knew, that we would see each other during family functions and that it would be best if we let bygones be bygones. We don’t discuss business at any family events. It’s not worth the aggravation, and all it does is pick at old scars.
TIP #3 – DON’T TROLL
Ever troll an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend on the web? Nah. Not you right? The same thing happens in business. People troll each other. Former employees, staff, and yes, even former business partners.
Trolling is a waste of time. You aren’t going to find what you are looking for. If you are hoping to find news on your ex-partner losing it all or images of them living under a bridge in a cardboard box, it isn’t going to happen. People post their wins on social media, not their losses. All you are going to see is the glammed up victories that your former partner has racked up since you two have parted ways. Some might be true. Some might be embellished. Who cares? Focus on building up your wins, ignore what everyone else is doing.
Another thing you will find yourself doing is decoding hidden messages in your ex-partners social media posts assuming that every message is a jab at you. I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but the truth is, you don’t occupy that much space in your ex-partner’s mind unless you did something really dirty to them. Those posts are probably not about you.
TIP #4 – DON’T GET A REBOUND PARTNER
Have you ever had a friend break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, only to try and ease the pain by getting with someone else right away? This is known as a rebound relationship. As crazy as this sounds, the same thing can happen in business.
After a business breakup, you need to focus on improving your business and yourself, not on finding a replacement partner. Fight the urge to go out and find a new partner. This can be especially difficult, even terrifying, if the ex-partner was the financier or the business’s main source of capital. I’ve been there. When I originally started my company there were three partners. Our third partner was less involved in the day to day and more involved in the pay to play. We eventually parted ways and my uncle and I were forced to increase sales and find new streams of income to supplement the loss of our financier.
You will get through this. You just need to be creative and resourceful. The last thing you want to do right now is partner up with someone during this vulnerable phase, only to find out that the new partner wasn’t the right fit either. If you think surviving one business breakup is tough, try surviving two in one year. It’s not good for your psyche, company morale, or your blood pressure.
Take this time to reflect. Analyze your business model. Seek out mentors not new business partners. More on that later.
TIP #5 – TURN TO FITNESS
Now is absolutely not the time to turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain or stress. I know it’s an easy, temporary fix, and many an entrepreneur will succumb to binge drinking, smoking, or even eating.
Instead of giving into vices, I want you to give into fitness. I shouldn’t have to sell you on the health benefits of working out on a regular basis. If you have a regular workout routine, then keep doing what you are doing. If you don’t have a regular workout routine you are going to have to develop one. ASAP.
There will be days when you will want to stay in bed. I’ve been there. Force yourself to get up. If you can’t force yourself to get up and find an accountability partner. In my case, my accountability partner is my wife. She kicks me out of bed every morning at 4:30 AM. Find someone who can do that for you. In extreme cases it may require having someone physically coming to your home and ringing your doorbell until you get up. Hell, you might even have to pay someone. Do whatever it takes until you have developed the habit of getting out of bed on your own.
When all hell is breaking loose in your professional life, it is critical that you feel like you have some control over your life, and having a physical regimen is one small way to reassure yourself that you are in control. You will feel better after working out. Every. Time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bad workout. You’ll will still feel better, more accomplished, and victorious. Acknowledging that small win builds momentum and gives you permission to recognize all the little victorious that follow.
Don’t troll social media. People only post their wins online.
TIP #6 – LEAD THE TROOPS
Just because the breakup isn’t talked about openly, doesn’t mean that people aren’t aware of it. The troops will talk. I know this from personal experience. If you have staff or employees, it’s very important that you are transparent with them about what is taking place.
Organize a staff meeting with a plan of action addressing the current state of your business. Do not, under any circumstances, disparage your former partner. Assume all responsibility for the current situation you are in. No one respects a leader that doesn’t take ownership. If it fails it’s on you. If it succeeds, it was a team effort. That’s leadership 101.
Make sure you have a strategy in place and share that strategy and the vision with your team. Hiding from your staff is the worst thing you can do as people will begin to jump to their own conclusions, and trust me, their own conclusions will never be positive. Instead of leaving them to their own imaginations, be specific about what your plans are and give specific dates as to when they will be executed.
During the initial breakup phase it is important that you meet with the team no less than once per month.
TIP #7 – PREPARE FOR DEFECTORS
I am the eternal optimist. I recite self affirmations over 500 times a day. I practice abundance meditation for 20 minutes a day. I share this with you because in spite of all my inner happy-happy talk, I know that with the loss of a business partner, there will be defectors.
Some people will leave with your ex. You will lose some of your talent. Prepare for this and have a strategy in place for when and if this happens. This is a part of business and there’s nothing that you can do about it. It has been said that if you organization isn’t growing, it is shrinking. You should always be recruiting new talent as your talent is always being recruited by your competitor. Don’t be naive enough to think that your staff or team isn’t being approached by other companies. You can still lose talent even if losing a business partner has nothing to do with it.
When and if there are people who leave your organization, tips one, two, and three will still apply. Take the higher ground and focus on building the business. Build a business and a company culture that is so attractive that people won’t want to leave.
TIP #8 – PRAY
This should really be tip number one. I’m not going to impose my religious beliefs on you, but I am going to tell you that there is a higher power at work here, and you aren’t going to be able to convince me otherwise. My Higher Power is God. When things start to go sideways, I turn to my Heavenly Father. In the same fashion that your children turn to you when things go wrong, there is a comfort in knowing that I can turn to my Heavenly Father when I am feeling lost, or stressed or scared.
Praying is free. You can pray anywhere and at anytime. You can pray in your car on your way to the office. You can pray in the shower. This is the beauty of the gift of prayer, and it’s at your disposal whenever you need it.
Take solace in knowing that you aren’t in this alone. Many successful businesses started as duos only to end up as sole proprietors. You’ll get through this.
Starting a business with a partner is almost like being married with a child. The child of course, is your business, and in the beginning, everyone plans for, and hopes for the best. Things don’t always work out as planned and I hope these tips will empower you to keep moving forward in your endeavor. Don’t throw your dream away just because your second biggest supporter, second only to you, stopped sharing the same dream. This too shall pass. You will either survive this chapter and become bitter or become better. I say better.
Originally published on PaulArgueta.com on 12/15/2019