Couples Therapy For Business Partners

 "Those in the game are blind to what those looking on see clearly." -Chinese proverb

Recently a professional who had gone through the breakup of his partnership a few years ago came to us for help before embarking on a new one. “I did not realize how hard it would be on my own,” he admitted. “In retrospect, I think we could have worked it out.” He confessed that he just didn’t know how to approach the issues that led to the breakup.

We advise those who are considering a partnership to be clear about their objectives; partnerships are a long-term solution and forming one to solve a short-term business problem is a recipe for failure. The opposite is also true: it is a

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TAGS: Facilitation, Mediation

Do Women Make Better Business Partners?

Very possibly, yes. While there is little direct study on gender differences among business partners, some of the research on workplace teams may have interesting implications when it comes to how gender plays out in business partnerships.

In a joint study from MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Union College published earlier this year, researchers found that the single most important element of an effective work group, was its "average social sensitivity." Basically, they found that the most

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TAGS: Partnerships

The Neuroscience Behind Why Third-Party Intervention Helps Business Partnerships

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  - Albert Einstein

If you have realized that your conflict with your partner isn’t going away, that self-awareness bodes well.  But you may be wondering, “we spent hours talking about our problem with little to no change, how is talking some more to a stranger going to help us?”

The answer is that a third party can be a powerful force to change existing dynamics. Change, as we all know, is hard.  It takes recognition of what the problem is, identifying a new way of doing things, and then activating learning pathways in our brain. One way a mediator can help is associating a reward with the outcome that comes from taking an action.

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TAGS: Mediation

In Order to Form a More Perfect Union: Why Your Partnership Needs a “Constitution”

"It will be of little avail if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read or so incoherent that they cannot be understood." - James Madison

What is a “Partnership Constitution”?

One of the advisors we interviewed for our white paper commented that he realized post-merger that a lot of discussions he had had with his potential partner during their transition period had not been captured in writing: big ideas, small ideas, as well as the vision of what the firm’s culture would be.  A lot of  important decisions were addressed in the firm’s Operating Agreement, of course.  But some of the ideas that emerged during their lengthy pre-merger discussions went undocumented.

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TAGS: Partnerships, Facilitation, Co-founders

When Good Conflict Goes Bad

"For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate." - Margaret Heffernan

The 50 –year partnership of Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger is a fascinating study for many reasons, but especially in terms of how they communicate.  Buffet has described it as having a comfort and ability for “intense discussion” that comes from a “complete lack of envy.” That sounds ideal, but for many people in partnerships this can be very difficult to achieve and maintain. 

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TAGS: Mediation

3 Ways To End A Stalemate With Your Business Partner

Business partners, especially those in smaller partnerships, often agree early on that when it comes to big issues in the business, decisions must be unanimous. If they don’t agree, they don’t do it. This seems fair enough, no one wants to feel forced to do something they don’t agree with, but it can also become a problem.

We worked with two New York-based partners recently who were at odds over opening a new office on the West Coast. Though Jake and Amy had talked about expanding to other cities at some point, Amy did not think they were ready and was not convinced that this was the right city for expansion. Jake was going to move there for personal reasons and saw it as an

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TAGS: Mediation


"If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got." - Henry Ford

The recently released Aite/NFP white Paper “Alpha Acquisitions: Maximizing the Return on your Practice Investment” analyzes post-acquisition success among 100 financial advisor transactions. The paper introduces the term “alpha acquisitions” to describe transactions resulting in “highly-satisfied” principals who say they would do their transaction again. The study also identified a middle tier (45%) of “near-alpha’ principals who were “satisfied” and would “probably” do the deal again, the remaining 30% or “non-alpha” were not satisfied and would not do the deal again.

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TAGS: Partnerships, Facilitation, Merging, Succession

Are You Collaborating Or Compromising With Your Business Partner?

There is no more effective way to agitate a mediator than to suggest that the result of a mediation was a compromise for all involved. While compromise is a basic negotiation practice, where both sides give up something they initially wanted in order to reach an agreement, it is sometimes looked upon as a lose-lose outcome; finding a quick middle-ground where everyone is left dissatisfied to some degree. Compromise is often necessary, especially to resolve a complicated issue when there are time constraints, but it is sometimes used as a shortcut and prevents a solution that would have been more positive for all sides, but requires more time, skill and discussion to achieve.

In a business partnership resolving conflicts though continued compromises rather than taking the time to look for ways to collaboratively find solutions can lead to resentment and ongoing tension. Partners must compromise on small issues for the sake of efficiency, but knowing the difference between small things and seemingly small things that are part of bigger

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TAGS: Partnerships, Facilitation, Mediation

Are You Facing A Founder's Dilemma?

In his landmark 2008 Harvard Business Review article, and subsequent book, “The Founder’s Dilemmas,” Noam Wasserman posed a thought-provoking question for business founders: Do you want to be rich or do you want to be king?”

Wasserman was mostly addressing startup CEOs about the tradeoffs inherent in taking outside money, or trading equity for needed skills.  But it is a question that can be posed to founders of professional practices who are faced with challenges in reaching the next phase for their firm. The need to stay competitive, or just to reach their full vision, often means bringing in others with needed skills or merging to gain economies of scale. Getting this talent or scale often comes at the cost of giving up sole control.

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TAGS: Merging, Co-founders

Partnership Lessons from "Shark Tank"


For budding entrepreneurs, “Shark Tank” is a pop culture phenomenon that made venture capital more accessible to the masses. Yes, there is some reality-show forced drama, but anything that gives audiences at least a passing understanding of valuations, equity stakes and market placement can’t be all bad.

There are also clear lessons in the value of partnerships to be learned from the interactions of the entrepreneurs and investors during the pitch process.  It turns out that the “sharks” invest more often in business who come in to pitch as a partnership.  Analysis of the deals show that co-founders (two or more) were far more likely to close a deal than solo entrepreneurs (44% of solo entrepreneurs close a deal vs. 58% with two co-founders.)

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TAGS: Partnerships, Co-founders


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