3 steps to take to resolve a serious dispute with a business partner

A business partnership is a close relationship. You probably see each other most days and communicate on the days that you don’t. Your futures are financially intertwined, and you are dependent on one another to keep your company running.

When you start having problems in your relationship or disagreeing about what should happen next for the company, even little issues might develop into a major conflict. How can you address a dispute with your business partner that could affect your relationship or your business operations?

Take a moment to look over your partnership agreement

Often, trying to put the dispute into perspective is beneficial. Few things will help you do that more quickly than looking over your partnership agreement. After all, it should lay out your responsibilities and the contributions you each have made to the company.

It could also include rules about how you resolve a dispute, such as requiring mediation. Sometimes, you may have even addressed the very matter that has led to your dispute years ago in your contract. If so, you can potentially apply the conflict resolution clause or guidance from your contract to your current dispute.

Established several different acceptable outcomes

If you know you have to sit down for an intense discussion with your partner, it’s good to have your priorities straight before you do so. Obviously, there is likely a particular outcome that you would prefer in the situation, but it may not be realistic.

If you want to sell the company and they do not, an alternative solution might be for them to buy you out if they don’t want to sell. It’s important to think about several different ways that you could amicably resolve the issue so that you have solutions to discuss rather than just a conflict to rehash.

Negotiate with an eye toward your future relationship

Sitting down with your business partner to resolve a dispute can be as nerve-wracking as trying to negotiate a divorce settlement with a spouse. There can be a lot at stake, ranging from your relationship to the financial stability of your company.

Simply being aggressive or issuing an ultimatum may not return the results that you hope for but could rather undermine the potential for success. Staying calm, keeping your emotions in check and trying to focus on your big picture goals for the company could help you resolve a conflict with your business partner. If you can’t settle the dispute, you may have to explore dissolving the partnership or even the business itself.

Handling a partnership dispute appropriately helps protect your company or at least your financial interest in it.