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Out of alignment with your business partner? Here’s what to try

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Q: “A colleague and I recently started a business venture as equal partners. ‘Dave’ is a local radio host, and I’m a computer geek. I have read that partnerships often don’t work out, and I’m afraid that may be true for us.

“Whenever Dave wants something, he insists on getting his own way and refuses to discuss other options. For example, if we have a technical problem, he immediately wants to buy new equipment instead of trying to find a less costly solution. If I disagree with him, he becomes very moody.

“Now Dave would like to bring one of his radio buddies into the business, which I think would be a huge mistake. I have suggested alternate ways that we might work with this guy, but Dave won’t even consider other possibilities.

“These arguments with Dave are wearing me out, so I’m tempted to just disengage and start my own company. Is there any way to make this partnership work?” Ready to Quit

A: Partnerships are a lot like marriages. You have people with equal power entering into a close, interdependent relationship where they frequently have to make joint decisions. Unfortunately, the parties often leap into this arrangement without any prior discussion of their goals, values and temperaments.

Given the combination of radio host and computer geek, disagreements are not surprising, because these occupations typically attract very different personality types. On the positive side, however, your differences also provide complementary skills and abilities, which can be of great benefit to your business.

To rescue this partnership, you and Dave must first stop arguing about current events and remember why you started this company in the first place. Revisit your original hopes and dreams, then see if you can agree on some specific goals for the future.

Next, try to objectively review what you have learned about the differences in your work styles. Start by recognizing each other’s strengths, then try to formulate an effective strategy for calmly working through your inevitable conflicts.

If both of you can take a mature, adult approach to this collaborative effort, then your joint venture may have a bright future. But if the relationship continues to deteriorate, you might be better off flying solo.

Understanding work style differences is often helpful. Here's a common one: Are You a Taskmaster or a Socializer?

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