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Business Partnerships Are Hard: I Do Not Want to Mess It Up

business partners

Being in business with a partner is that double-edged sword of an amazing opportunity balanced against the potential for disaster. It is an alliance whose genesis is often based on friendship and excitement and advances into getting in bed together in a high-stakes relationship.

A lack of intentionality to foster the alliance can lead to financial failure and broken relationships.

(The parallels with a personal or romantic relationship are obvious and well documented. Leadership coaching of this sort can be referred to as “couples counseling.” True, but get the tongue out-of-the-cheek and see how important this is.)

If you are going into business together, it is a startup. Whether you’re 25 or 50 something new is being created. Even if you’re taking over an established business, your relationship is a new one that needs special attention as it goes through the phases of creating something new. The stats are well documented for the percentage of new businesses that fail. What isn’t all that clear is how much of that is due to healthy relationships between the leaders, and how many personal relationships dissolve when things go south.

Kudos to mature businesses that are run by partners and have survived the test of time. We can learn from those and also look for ways to improve and embrace the ever-changing lifecycles they encounter.

These three strategies will help a business partnership thrive by hitting head on some of the biggest opportunities for success.

Every day is Different – Be Ready for Change
You have to be brutally aware that you, your partner, and the business are different every single day. Yes, you have your vision, mission, goals, business plan, etc. that you use as your north star that helps you navigate into the future, but things will change.

Your partner starts dating someone new. A sure-thing investor is continuing to delay a decision. Your parents are having health problems. You’ve moved to a new office. You feel like you’re carrying more of the load. That competitor seems to be doing really well. There are now more employees and your 1:1 partner relationship isn’t like it once was.

These are examples of things you really don’t have control over. Whether personal or professional, the things that happen to you impact all dimensions of your life. When uncertainty or unanticipated change happens, our instinct is to try to protect ourselves. We do this by avoiding, exhibiting self-doubt, or blaming others to help us feel more secure.

When you look at things through the lens of “protecting self” you are not in the best place to make important decisions. It leads to judgment of yourself or others that may or may not be fair or true. It isn’t constructive in trying to resolve and adapt to the inevitability of change in your business partnership.

You can control how you react to the things that are going on around you. Knowing change is inevitable helps you:
•    Manage your own interpretation of the events and not blame your partner. Things that occur don’t have to have to be judged as good or bad. They happened, and now it’s time to take action moving forward in ways that serve the business.
•    Point out to each other where you see change happening so you can address it together. You and your partner have blind spots and see things differently. You have the advantage of the partnership where you can – and have the responsibility – to help each other see things clearly.
•    Be confident that no matter what happens not only can the challenge be managed, but it can be leveraged for even better outcomes. These are all learning opportunities.

Trust Yourself, Your Partner, The Relationship
You are together for a reason. You know that you have vision, skills, and experience that have brought you to this point. You know your partner brings a set of strengths as well. They are not the same set of attributes for both of you. Some are more developed in one of you than the other. THANK GOD! If you were identically gifted, you would be redundant, and the partnership wouldn’t make sense.

Believing that each of you has something to offer allows trust to be manifest in the partnership.

Attention to detail. Client relationship management. Financial acumen. Honesty. Conflict resolution. Vision. Communication. Strategy implementation. Business development. Talent management. Creating teams. Sales. Integrity.

These are all talents and values necessary in a successful organization. Each of you will fall somewhere along that continuum of “not good” to “crushing it” for each of these. Trusting that your partner brings something to the table and is in alignment with the overarching goals and values is crucial.  Furthermore, trusting each other to step up and grow in areas where you’re not as strong sustains the long-term success.

Trusting yourself and trusting your partner leads to being able to trust the relationship. If you can be confident that you’re giving your best and your partner is as well, then you are able to focus on the relationship.

By not blaming yourself or your partner, you are able to see there is something bigger that transcends both of you. You believe your relationship (or business) is more important than each of you individually. That trust allows you to get over yourself and be able to see ways to achieve your goals alongside your partner.

Ask the Hard Questions
Hard questions have to be asked to keep things moving forward. Those questions have to be asked of you, about the other person, and about the business.

This is really hard to do because sometimes you don’t know what the answer will be. Alternatively, once the question is asked the proverbial cat-is-out-of-the-bag. Failing to ask those questions, however, does not change the answer. Nor does the problem (real or imagined) go away.

The hard questions have to be asked.

Is this business what we were hoping it would be? Am I enjoying what I am doing? Do I still want to be doing this? What is the value my partner brings to the company? What do I need to do to contribute more effectively? How do we want to solve problems moving forward? What can each of us do to help the other succeed?

These are incredibly hard questions to ask oneself, or to discuss with your partner. It takes trust, honesty, and confidence to have fruitful conversations around critical questions.

One of the biggest obstacles to being able to ask the hard questions is a real or perceived imbalance of power within the partnership. Inevitably, a partner assumes control overall, or one or the other might dominate in certain dimensions of the relationship. Playing to your strengths is essential, and that makes a partnership work. However, you are both there for a reason, and each of you should want and be able to ask the hard questions.

To help level the playing field, and to be sure to include the positive as well as the negative, here are Five Questions you can both use to help set the foundation for effective communication and to start asking he hard questions.

1. What contribution to the business have I made in the past few months that I am most proud of?
2. What contribution has my partner made most recently that I think is really great?
3. What can my partner do to help me be better at what I do?
4. What can my partner do to help the company be even better?
5. What do I want to do differently to help make even more of a difference in the company in the upcoming months?

Answer these questions for yourself and have your partner do likewise. Then discuss them together. You may want this to be facilitated until you get used to doing it!

Being in a partnership is hard work and also so rewarding. Through the acknowledgment that change is inevitable; by trusting yourself, your partner and the relationship; and by asking the hard questions you can help increase the likelihood of success.

Failure Is An Option: And There are Ways to Avoid It

failure-photocopy

“40%-50% of executives fail, quit, or are pushed out during the first 18 months in a new position.”

My friend and best-selling Amazon author, Lee Eisenstaedt, opens his book Being a Leader With Courage with this eye-popping statistic, and throughout the book provides great insight into why this happens and gives direction for how to avoid it.

When he shared the stat again at a workshop he recently led, it struck me with greater impact. Several of my clients are in new roles, and are consciously and aggressively working to not have this be their fate. They are not leaving it up to chance, and they want to guarantee success in their roles.

So many leaders, however, don’t seek outside support at this critical juncture in their careers.

What is it about leaders who seek executive coaching?

I’ve identified three characteristics that set apart individuals wanting to be successful.

1. Have the Confidence You Can Be Even Better

If you’ve moved up the ladder you already have success. Even though you have ongoing fears of failure, the imposter syndrome, and other stories your Gremlin tells you, you have had success. You, as a successful leader, are also self-aware and confident enough to know you can do more. But it is scary.

I’m frequently asked what I consider the most important characteristic of leadership, and unhesitatingly I say confidence. It’s not the arrogant confidence of “I deserve this” but the ability to look at what has brought you to this point and feeling good about it. What are my strengths? What do I bring to the table? What is the value I have created? Now that things have changed, how can I deliver value in the context of my new role?

When you look at yourself with humble confidence, you also realize you can be even more effective.  You know there are blind spots. You have seen characteristics of others you would like to emulate. You realize there’s a reason you haven’t developed all the skills you’d like, and now is the time to start.

This is confident, objective self-awareness that doesn’t make you feel weak, but presents the opportunity to be even better. Be honest and confident.
2. See Life as Being More Than Just Your Job

Your life is already complicated.  As you move into a new role things will be different. Admit it. Embrace it. Work on it. You cannot just gloss over it as an entitlement or a linear progression.

You’re moving into a big new job and you have a big title with lots of responsibilities. And, you are a parent, someone’s child, a friend, partner, sibling, an aunt or uncle. With these personal roles, come the realities of life: aging parents, difficult children, financial challenges, breakups, illness, transitions, and more.

Along with the rush of moving into a big new job, you are also shaking up virtually every other aspect of your life. All of those relationships and challenges you are dealing with already are going to be exacerbated by a different work rhythm, new stressors, and different demands on your time and energy.

You cannot be as effective as you like if you ignore or minimize these external factors and fail to understand how they affect your ability to be successful at work. Failing to fully be aware of this leads to disruption across all dimensions of your life and an increased likelihood of failure.

Successful leaders hit this head on knowing all aspects of their life are being impacted and need to be addressed.
3. Know You Can’t Do It Alone

It would be great if just becoming aware of how change will impact you would be enough to help you succeed. “I can suck it up.” “It will all fall into place over time.” “I can ignore what’s happening at home because they knew this was what we agreed to.” Unfortunately, there is a very real possibility that it won’t work out if it’s just ignored and there isn’t a strategy to be successful.

It’s also nearly impossible to do it alone.

Family members and close friends with whom you can be very honest about what’s going on is a necessary part of your support system. Unfortunately, they are all connected to the outcome in some way. The decisions you do or don’t make will impact them in some way. The advice and support they offer is not entirely objective. After all, they want you to be successful, but also don’t want to hurt your feelings, are carrying memories of a past struggle, or are afraid of what might lie ahead.

Who can you be 100% honest with about your fears or struggles with staying on track? To whom can you admit to you need help with a certain skill set? (You’re the boss, shouldn’t you know that?) Where can you learn the techniques to adjust your leadership style in order to have the impact you know you want to have? Where can you openly grapple with the impact a difficult personal situation is having on your job performance?

These questions are not rhetorical. They are real-life challenges clients bring to a coaching engagement where fears are admitted, problems are solved, and strategies to move forward are developed and executed.

Having things not work out in the first 18 months is no fun for anyone. Having confidence in your ability to grow, acknowledging the way all aspects of your life interact, and knowing an independent third party can help move things in a positive direction more quickly than you can on your own will go a long way to helping you achieve happiness, success, and fulfillment.

The Secret to Capitalizing on September – The Bonus Month.

The Secret to Capitalizing on September – The Bonus Month.                 Intense colors of autumn

Summer’s over. The routine is back in full swing, but Q4 hasn’t begun yet.

September is your bonus month!

Feeling that drop in temperature and changes in the daylight patterns and shadows takes me right back to the end of summer as a kid. Leaving the mountains of Pennsylvania and heading back to Long Island for the new school year had the painful stab of the end of summer fun, as well as a flutter of anxious excitement of something new.

Here’s the secret to capitalizing on this gift of September. Simply ask yourself this question: “How do I want to feel on December 31st?” Don’t misunderstand, this isn’t about rushing through the next 4 months, it’s about slowing down and using them – especially the September Bonus Month – to reach your goals of 2016.

Here are three ideas for how to use your September Bonus month:

  1. Give
  2. Grow
  3. Enjoy

GIVE: We are all so blessed. Too often the tendency is to wait until Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Tax Time to make charitable commitments. Do it now! Give extra during your bonus month, or plan now how much you will give between now and the end of the year and start contributing. The value is as much for the giver as the recipient, and by starting now you will be less likely to cut back because of the end-of-year expenses – or the number looks too big in a single lump.

And, you don’t want to be “that guy” who only gives at holiday time.

GROW: Whether personally or professionally, use September to focus on you, your relationships, and your business. Don’t let the sadness of summer being over or the fears of the Q4 crunch whittle away these amazing four weeks! Kick off a healthy living effort now. Look at those hard realities about your career and job satisfaction. Mend relationships before the holidays so you can enjoy those times more fully. Look at your business and ask yourself how you want to feel about it on December 31st, and decide what steps you can take now.

On New Years’ Eve do you want to be anticipating the New Year with enthusiasm and excitement or fear and frustration?

ENJOY: We spend too much time looking at “what’s wrong rather than what’s right”, and therefore stress out and chew up our days and weeks without even being aware of it. Use this month to shift your energy and get ready for the inevitable craziness that lies ahead. More people say Fall is their favorite season than any other, so enjoy! Embrace the smells and tastes of Fall (not everything has to be pumpkin spice!). Take the time for family and for yourself. Reflect, play, read, take a class, and enthusiastically jump all over those focused personal or business goals.

You can enjoy this month by pushing hard on those areas of your life you know will make you feel great on December 31st!

We all want these good things to happen, but it’s really hard to do it alone. Engage in activities that you might not usually choose in order to mix it up and grow. Find those around you who can help you create a plan for your Bonus September, hold you accountable to make it happen – and celebrate it with you!

Leave your comments below on how you will take advantage of your Bonus Month!

Don’t Bother Reinventing Yourself

Solution CrossroadDon’t Bother Reinventing Yourself
By Tim Ressmeyer
August 6, 2016

There’s lots of talk about re-inventing yourself for a new career, your 2nd half, an encore career, etc.

My thought – don’t bother.

Ouch! Does that mean if you’re feeling stuck you shouldn’t try for something else?

Whoa! But isn’t that exactly what you did, Tim? Didn’t you leave a corporate role to become a coach? Isn’t that a “reinvention?”

There are two reasons I prefer not to use the term reinvention when I work with people looking to make a career transition.

1. Reinvention Sounds Very Daunting

People making a change are not always operating from a position of strength or confidence. A late-in-your-career layoff can be devastating. Making a significant career change because of a lifecycle disruption (think caring for aging parents or an ill partner) is hard enough. Feeling like you have to invent something as well can be frightening and overwhelming.

The career people have developed is typically not a true invention, but rather a sequence of decisions that led them to this point. Or, as I like to call it, an Accidental Life.

If inventing something is defined as originating or creating a product out of one’s own ingenuity, you may feel you are starting from scratch. That’s a tall order for someone who might not be in a really good place.

2. Reinvention Minimizes What You Have to Offer

You are more than the job title or career you are leaving behind. If you believe you have to start over, everything you have done to this point is minimized. You do have skills and talents that led to successes and accomplishments. They served you in one way to this point; in the future they will serve differently.

Leaving a career as an salesperson, executive, nurse, attorney, or hospitality worker does not mean that is all that you were, and you have to start all over. In each of these positions you might have also been communicator, leader, problem solver, or counselor along with a host of other strengths and skills.

Those are all skills you have honed and applied in the past. No need to reinvent! The next step is to identify and create something using what you already bring to the table. It’s not as daunting a leap, and it maximizes your natural and developed gifts, strengths, and passion.

For me, I looked back at my true skills, and what I really liked to do. I acknowledged there were things I wasn’t as good at, and if I didn’t need those skills moving forward I would instead focus on my strengths, and invest in those.

When you look honestly and your strengths and gifts – and pat yourself on the back for what you really bring to the table – you are able to shift your energy and see new opportunities. Sure it will take work to move from nursing to being a small business owner, or from being a restaurant manager to running operations at a retail establishment, but it’s not reinvention.

It’s uncovering and leveraging what you have, and confidently moving forward to make it happen.

“Shut Up Gremlin!” Three Steps To Tame Your Inner Critic

“I’m not good enough so I won’t even try.” “They’ll find out I’m a fake.”
“I could never succeed making that change.” “I’ll embarrass myself.” Shut Up Gremlin! Three Steps To Tame Your Inner Critic

Those thoughts and that voice in your head saying those things is your inner critic – Gremlin – that tells you you’re not good looking enough, smart enough, you’ll never be able to do that, you picked the wrong career path so just suck it up, etc. It’s been with you forever and is such a familiar voice that it’s hard not to think that’s who you are. It’s not true.

Your gremlin is not you; it is merely part of you.

There are three steps you can take to let your gremlin know you’re done with letting it hold you back.

1. Name Your Gremlin

After you acknowledge that there is that inner critic that is judging you, and not serving you, it’s time to give it a name. When you do this you are bringing it out of the shadows, and making it clear it is only part of you and not your entire being.

So, name your Gremlin! Spend some time with it. It can be anything: a name (Hank), an inanimate object (Tree), or an animal (Bear), or whatever. The only rule is it cannot be the name of a person in your life you don’t like or has hurt you, because that will make it hard to distinguish the gremlin from that person.

2. Confuse your Gremlin
I ask my clients to make a list of 60 of their strengths. Yes, 60! There’s always push back saying that that’s impossible. But they do it. (I do say that when you hit 50 or so, they can ask family or friends to help out.)

The results range from “I’m funny” to “I’m a caring parent,” to “I’m a problem solver,” to “I’m an excellent financial planner,” and so on.

When you do this, you realize you have all these strengths that have led to a list of accomplishments and successes a mile long! And, when you create this list, you are confusing your gremlin. Your gremlin likes to look at what might go wrong, rather than acknowledging the truth: you have a lot of accomplishments.

What the gremlin is saying to you just isn’t true and you have the data points to prove it!

3. Control your Gremlin

When you have named it and found contrary evidence to what it’s saying, you can control it.

When you start to hear that voice saying it’s going to be too hard, or you’ll embarrass yourself, or you’ll never succeed at it, just say, “Shut up Gremlin!”

If it’s still criticizing you and causing doubt, remember your list of accomplishments, and tell him again, “Wait a minute, Gremlin, I have all these successes that prove I have and can do amazing things. You’re wrong!”

Or you can politely say, “Thank you, but I don’t need your input right now.”
You will never get rid of your Gremlin. It has been with you forever, and will continue to be. It has been with you during hard times and is a familiar presence and voice. But, it is not serving you now. It holds you back from being who you are meant to be, and from doing what you’re meant to do.

Becoming aware of and then naming, confusing, and controlling your gremlin can lead to very rapid change and the ability to move forward with confidence.

Tim recently discussed inner critics and his coaching practice in an interview with Forbes.

Ressmeyer Partners is a Chicago-based life, leadership, and executive coaching company serving clients around the globe. Happy Hour Coach® is a service that provides impactful group coaching “in the spirit of a happy hour.” Tim Ressmeyer, Ph.D. is a certified professional coach and Founding Partner, and can be reached at tim@ressmeyerpartners.com.