Power struggles can arise in any relationship and in any situation. When you run a business with a co-founder, power struggles can range from choosing carpet for the new office space to making decisions about an exit plan. When you equip yourself with tactics to manage power struggles you’ll avoid negative impact on your business and your team.
I’ve run our business with my co-founder for close to a decade now. I’ve learned that in order to successfully overcome power struggles you need to go back to the basics. Here are four tips that helped me overcome them — from the simplest to the most complex.
1. Define roles
One of the biggest misconceptions business owners have is the belief that every decision will be made in partnership. While equity is important when dealing with business matters, it’s not always the most efficient way to make decisions. A few years into my own business, I realized joint decisions are the ideal–not the norm. However, decisions still have to be made.
Rather than thinking every decision will be made in joint agreement, decide early on who will be responsible for running different parts of the business. In my case, I found operations and innovation was my strength. So, I left financials and the books to my co-founder. This allowed us to be accountable to each other for these areas and make the best decisions.
By defining roles, you create a framework that allows each party to exercise power. Leverage each of your strengths. Decide who will be responsible for making decisions about different aspects of the business. This way, when a power struggle arises, the final word rests with the co-founder responsible for that area of the business.
2. Visualize it
More often than not, a power struggle is kindled by a misunderstanding. Rather than assume your co-founder understands your rationale, make it clear. As an avid systems guy, I’m always looking for technology to enhance, automate or simplify our day-to-day duties.
My co-founder and I had a big debate over switching customer communications to a customer support software system. However, as I demonstrated the benefits my partner warmed up to the idea. We’ve since had tremendous success with the new streamlined system.
When you paint a picture of the decision, your co-founder will be more open and much more comfortable with the final decision. Think both short and long-term. It can also help you discover things you may not have considered before.
3. Don’t rush it
Sometimes the hardest thing to do in business is to take it slow. If possible, don’t rush the decision making process. If you and your co-founder are not seeing eye to eye, rushed decisions will only increase tension. Instead, set a timeframe to review the decision individually and agree to come back to the issue later.
For example, after many years focused strictly on a service model, I wanted to introduce software to streamline internal processes and provide more customer-facing transparency. However, software development is expensive. My co-founder was opposed to diverting attention and finances. After lengthy deliberations and individual research, we revisited it a few years later. We realized this slight change would benefit us multiple fronts. It took a few years to come to this conclusion, but it was worth the wait.
When you allow for deliberation you can de-escalate the struggle. This will help both of you give the decision ample attention.
4. Seek counsel
When all else fails, reach out to a trusted advisor. An impartial party can weigh in and add clarity. They can identify issues that may have been blown out of proportion and give you fresh perspective.
My co-founder and I don’t always agree on how to plan for growth. When it came time to set annual goals, we were on opposite ends of the spectrum. After countless discussions, we would not come to an agreement on our own. So, we presented the challenge to our business coach. As a result, we were both much clearer on everything.
Being so close to the business; it can cloud your decision-making. Before you seek counsel, be sure to agree to accept the outcome ahead of time to avoid further problems.
Keep your eyes on the business
Whenever you find yourself frustrated that your co-founder doesn’t see things the way you do, take a step back. Make sure you’re not fueling a power struggle. Early on, identify a way to deal with issues that might come up. And as a last piece of advice, be sure to focus on the business. Don’t lose sight of what’s best for your business just because you want to come out on top.
This article has been edited.
Solomon Thimothy is the founder of Clickx, a marketing intelligence platform that helps businesses and agencies with marketing attribution.