Among the factors generally identified as contributing to a company's success, there is one that entrepreneurs tend to focus on less, i.e. the relationships between partners or key people in the company.Bringing people together undoubtedly has a beneficial effect in supporting a company in terms of dynamism, combining skills, creativity, and sharing working capacity. On the other hand, it cannot be repeated often enough that conflicts and discord between founders can seriously damage the business, or even kill it if not managed properly. In fact, it is very rare for company founders to start and finish their entrepreneurial adventure without obstacles in their relationship. This is why it is uncommon to find the same individuals in key positions throughout the life of a company.
Normally prudent and astute co-entrepreneurs should therefore seek to protect their professional relationships in the same way as they think about their products and services or build a financial, marketing, networking strategy, etc.
At the start of a business project, and throughout the life of the business, the "partners" (to be understood in the broadest sense) must undertake real work involving alignment and mutual understanding so that they can consolidate their position and ensure they are in a position to overcome the inevitable future tensions and difficulties. Tensions can exist and are natural; it is even possible to use them in a way that protects your company!
1) Identify the issues, needs and values at work and the visions of each person
What are the partners' aspirations? What motivates them in this enterprise? What have they given up for this project? What are their resources and discomfort zones? What if the question arises of bringing one or more new partners into the project? Here are some of the basic questions to ask each other.
To understand how you yourself operate, use your past experiences! What in the past has been successful, or not? What did you miss or dislike, or on the contrary what was a real driving force?
2) Identify areas of potential tension, conflict, or even antagonism
For example, use your fears about your teams and partners: do I tend to keep my mouth shut so I don't hurt people? Am I afraid of losing control of information/decisions? Not doing enough? Being judged? Not being recognised? etc.
Fears are inherent to human development. Not identifying them and not using them in a productive and practical way brings the risk of letting them control us and make decisions for us, and they are rarely good advisors if they are not at least slightly transformed and conscious.
3) Learn to listen (to yourself)
Listening to your partners is much more than opening your ears, just like listening to yourself; it is also an art that can contribute a great deal to the health of your professional relationships.
While for some, such introspection and communication may seem natural, this is far from the case for everyone. So don't hesitate to ask for support, ideally from a third party outside the company.
4) Define your relationship in writing
If everyone understands the information above, you will be able to determine ways of working that are really compatible with those people wanting to work together in the long term.
This "relationship charter" must cover financial distributions, as well as many other points that the partners will anticipate with the greatest possible clarity, such as priorities, communication methods, decision-making processes, duties of each person, modus operandi in the event of incapacity, entry of a new partner/shareholder/director, recruitment of an employee, subcontracting, etc.
More practical points can also be included. They will vary from one business to another and may include the choice of the type of reception/secretariat, organisation of leave, choice of a server, marketing tools, etc.
If you are partners, we can only encourage you to record the essence of these decisions in a true partners' agreement. This instrument, which is not used often enough, allows you to really personalise the operating rules while still being able to modify them if needed (for example if there is a change in the personal situation of a partner).
5) Put your pride away and get help
In short, don't underestimate the importance of the interpersonal factor in the success of your business - and consequently your well-being - and, before conflicts set in and cripple the business, take the time to understand, anticipate and mark out your professional relationships. So don't hesitate to ask for help, as this will make the process faster and more efficient!
5) Continue questioning
Be wary of what seems natural to you! Cultivate regular questioning, we all have grey areas, blind spots. Identifying them can make the relationship flourish and help develop hidden potential.
Auteures : Barbara Pauchet et Mathilde Neumann
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
To The Moon - Protection De Vos Relations Professionnelles