Q. Dear Zenagos, I decided to start a business with two other partners. One person I know really well, and we’ve worked together before. The other person I don’t know very well. Everyone agreed to put in equal amounts of money to start the business. I put in my share, and so did the person I know well. We’re waiting for the third person’s money. It’s been three months – how long should we wait? He’s been putting in hours in the business, but we have been paying an hourly rate for that time.
Every interaction in a business partnership is significant. The third partner’s silence and inaction are important signals to you, and the manner in which you respond will be a meaningful signal in return. Do your best to put your emotions aside and gather information. Once you have more information, you will be better equipped to decide your path forward.
If the deadline for performance passed three months ago, then you have already waited too long. When a business partner doesn’t meet an obligation, it is important to discuss it right away. Allowing time to pass only increases the level of emotion, and you want to keep your conversations positive and professional.
Keep Your Cool
Accurate information is very helpful in any decision-making process, and you are less likely to get it if you enter the conversation with disappointment, resentment, or anger. Be careful not to guess about the situation. If you rehearse conversations with people when they are not there – anticipating what they will say and then practicing what you will say back – it can increase your negative emotions and make it less likely that you will listen to the third partner when you do have a chance to connect.
Don’t Ascribe Negative Motives
You will increase the probability of a successful interaction if you keep an open mind. If you ascribe negative motives to the third partner (assuming that he is doing something unfair or underhanded), he may feel attacked and be less likely to tell you the true situation. Your goal is to understand.
Prioritize the Relationship
As Maya Angelou said (2013), “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Even if you decide not to become business partners and you never even get to know this third partner, you will be well served to have a positive and professional interaction. You never know when you will interact with him again, or with someone who knows him and has heard about what happened between you. The business problem can be solved. It may be much more difficult to repair a negative interaction.
While it is important to have a good interaction, it is also critical that you process the valuable information that you are being given. A potential business partner who avoids rather than communicating and who does not meet an obligation is likely to repeat that behavior in the future. Consult our earlier post about partnerships, and think carefully before you move forward.