“They Don’t Speak to One Another”

I have been involved with several businesses where I was told the owners “don’t speak to one another.” In all of these businesses, the businesses were profitable; yet those in the business felt the peril of the situation. In the event the owners would need to determine policy together, there was serious doubt as to the ability of the owners to share ideas and make decisions, especially if time would be a factor.

In one case the business was sold. In the other cases, the owners separated in various ways, none without complications and considerable detriment both to the business divided and the resultant businesses created. Once business owners cut one another off, they do what they can do alone to preserve the profitability of the business but remain vulnerable to any business crisis that requires the owners to revise or initiate action together.

Human relationships are difficult to maintain over time. A flicker of insight giving assurance is often followed by the unsettling realization that something unanticipated is occurring. Imperfect communication fosters doubt and concern.

When people have difficult conversations, the worst result is the cutoff – those involved deciding not to continue to communicate with the others. Dealing with difficult conversations is a subject in and of itself, but the important message from the study of that subject is that no matter what is said, the aspect of continuing the conversation should be preserved. Even when the incidental words are offensive, the relationship needs to be respected and preserved. The cutoff injures all parties involved, and perhaps most damages the one who cuts off. In the military, the saying is: “You salute the uniform, not the man.” To preserve relationships, you sometimes must ignore intemperate words to continue the opportunity for further conversation.

My experience is that relationships function where they are honored. The very best way to avoid the circumstance of not communicating is for the owners to place a priority on continual communication among them. The relationship is honored by having meaningful conversations. A good thing happens from this, meaningful conversations between owners and the resultant policy decisions are the seminal part of the planning process.

The beginning of the planning process is the setting of goals. These goals are based on the owners’ values. Where the owners have not articulated their values to one another, the relationship often goes forward based on assumptions, such as assuming that each owner wants the same things as another owner. If assumptions like these are made, then later when the assumptions prove to be false, there are feelings of being misled or manipulated. Moreover, values change with life circumstances. If values are not part of a continuing discussion about goals, the opportunity for making inaccurate assumptions increases.

In a business where planning is done on a continual basis, there are meaningful conversations among the owners, and the relationships are honored. The owners have the opportunity to share values, set or revise goals, utilize a decision-making process using a group of stakeholders and experts to advise on decisions, determine actions to be taken to realize goals, evaluate the effect of those actions, and then revise the plan as appropriate. Having planning as a part of the business process will prevent much of what causes owners to decide not to speak to one another.

If you want help in creating strategic planning in your business and preventing business owner disputes, that is what I do. Review the blog articles and the podcasts or give me a call.