Lessons From A Business Partnership Gone Bad
If you’re in a business partnership or are considering one, DO NOT skip this cautionary tale. Here are 10 lessons from a professional partnership gone bad.
When people don’t do the right thing, when they don’t honor their word, when they change the rules after the rulebook has already been written, you might be in a business partnership gone bad.
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A relationship like this one leaves you feeling taken advantage of, hurt and – frankly – cheated. Anyone who has been victim to this type of relationship knows the feeling.
If you’re feeling taken advantage of by one of your business relationships, then don’t skip this cautionary tale.
Businesses Partnerships Gone Bad: My Cautionary Tale
Recently I had the unfortunate experience of realizing a company I had partnered with for several years was not what I thought it was – in the most disappointing fashion.
I’m a huge fan of power partnerships and the doors they can open for both partners. With this company, for example, we partnered together for three years while they grew from a small startup to a full-fledged team.
I supported my partner and, for a time, they supported me in return. That partnership was part of what allowed them to experience so much success in such a short period of time.
And that’s exactly how it should be! The purpose of a business partnership is to help each other grow faster than either entity could alone.
However, I eventually realized this was not the type of relationship I was in. Over time, my partner stopped meeting the agreement we had laid out in writing. When I questioned the change in our original arrangement, I was given no explanation nor consolation.
They had changed the agreement without notice and refused to make amends for the lost revenue or damaged relationship.
So what could I do? What can YOU do if you find yourself in this position?
That’s what I want to explore – because if you’re dealing with someone who changes the rules after the fact, then you know you’re dealing with someone without true integrity. They don’t value you enough to do the right thing by you and foster a future relationship.
So let’s explore our options when a business partnership goes bad.
How To Move On After A Bad Business Partnership
1. Say your piece.
First thing’s first. You have to be willing to state your position and say your piece. If you don’t do this, your partner can use your silence as an excuse to continue wronging you.
Lay down the terms of your agreement, and let your business partner know what you expect and where you stand. How? If you have a contract or written agreement (which you absolutely should), read the terms and conditions that aren’t being met. Then ask for an equitable and mutually agreed upon resolution to the situation.
Then, unfortunately, you have to be prepared to agree to disagree. If you’re in a bad business partnership, then your partner won’t be likely to meet your terms or come to a mutually beneficial compromise. Be prepared for this answer, so you can keep your cool and prepare for proper recourse.
2. Explore your options.
If you’ve addressed your concerns, countered their arguments and received no real explanation, then it’s time to explore your options.
Lawsuits are expensive and often don’t result in the outcome you hope for, even when you win. They take up an intense amount of time and energy, as well as money. In some cases, it might be worth the fight. But more often than not, a different form of recourse is more appropriate.
Make a list of all the options available to you. You can report your partner to the Better Business Bureau or an association that monitors quality in your partner’s industry. Research any other reporting agencies that might apply.
You can also reach out to your network in a professional and respectful manner. If your inner circle is working with your partner, too, give them a tempered warning.
It’s important to take control of your narrative here. Telling your story honestly and respectfully, and in appropriate circumstances, will help you feel better and help others avoid the same mistake.
3. Let it go.
After you decide how you would like to handle the situation, you need to handle it and let it go.
Sometimes the temptation to react is great, but the better option is to simply let it go. Why? Your value will be missed. Your absence will speak for itself over time. It may not happen on your timeline. You may not even know it. But as they continue to watch you rise, they will notice.
Trust that, and refocus your energy on what you can do to move forward.
4. Now that you know better, do better.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You know better now, so you need to do better in the future. First of all, cut all ties with your former partner and cease all communications. You don’t need to know what they’re doing anymore, so consider unfollowing them on your social media to avoid negativity during your daily scroll.
Next, the only thing you can do is make better decisions in the future. Before jumping into bed with another business partner, do deeper research than you did before. Ask for professional references, and actually call those references! Check reporting agencies such as the Better Business Bureau before you commit to anything. And you absolutely MUST have a written contract before you start.
5. Learn the lesson.
Ask yourself: What’s the big lesson here? Then take time to seriously reflect. Consider how easily you trust and how well you read people. What is God/the universe trying to tell you?
For me, the big lesson was this: Money is a fantastic tool that reveals a person’s true character.
Pay careful attention to how your partners and potential partners handle their money. If they seem to “never have money,” that’s a sign they’re operating from a place of scarcity. Ask yourself, does that align with my relationship with money? If not, then consider someone else.
6. Get back on the horse.
If you’ve been through a bad business partnership before, as I have, then you’re more than likely feeling reluctant to do it again, and I understand why. It’s scary. You’ve been burned once, and you can fully expect to be burned again – if you don’t keep your lessons firm in your mind.
But here’s the thing. We join business partnerships because they work. They often help both parties grow faster toward their goals.
That’s why it’s important to move past your fears and look for business partnerships with a sharper eye this time. You know better. You’re smarter. You know what to look for. This time, you can pick a business partner who is worthy of your commitment, investment and trust.
7. Look for the bigger picture.
A lesson like this often helps you see the bigger picture a little more clearly, as well. For me, the breaking of my business partnership further clarified my sense of purpose and future plans. It made me realize I’d been given another opportunity to shift my perspective.
I’d outgrown the people I started with – but that meant I’d grown! It’s time for me to broaden and diversify my network to align with my future goals and intentions.
It might not be easy, as growth often is not. And it always hurts just a little to say goodbye to a relationship that you once thought was mutually beneficial. But it helps you see the bigger picture – and who that picture might include.
8. Be optimistic.
Make sure your optimism, faith in people, and trust is still intact after this experience. There ARE people out there who operate on the same level of integrity as you do. There are business partnerships out there that will help you grow without eventually holding you back. Please don’t lose faith in that.
You CAN trust another potential business partner. Simply go into each new relationship with the lessons you’ve learned and never forget to apply them. Take the time to have meaningful, truthful discussions. Create contracts that are binding and enforceable.
Always learn and grow – but continue to be optimistic and expect that the best.
9. See people for who they are.
When people show you who they are, believe them. I like to believe the best in people, and I give them the benefit of the doubt. But when someone starts to show their true colors, they no longer deserve this from you.
Pay attention to the small things. For example, pay attention to how they deal with shared expenses. Do they leave you with the check every time? That’s a red flag that the relationship may not be equitable, or this potential partner may not be as committed to mutual success as they should be.
Do they have skin in the game? They absolutely should if this is a business partnership.
When negotiating the terms of your agreement, pay attention to their tactics. If they keep moving the goal post or changing the terms of the game, then you need to question their integrity. It’s never too late to say no if your potential partner starts playing games near the finish line.
The bottom line is this: There’s no faster way to find out who a person truly is than by putting money on the table and seeing how they treat you.
10. Don’t sink to their level.
Finally, be professional and truthful in all you do. Don’t let another’s misstep influence your way of business. Continue to shine as the example you are!
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