Picture this; you quickly check facebook and see your business partner, whom you thought was taking care of things, on holidays in Europe. What’s more, this business partner has a company credit card and is also in charge of paying all the company bills… You had no idea and never doubted and always trusted this partner (true story).

What do you do, both practically and for your relationship? Is it all over and how did it come to this?

It got me thinking, are we too laid back for business partnerships to work? Furthermore, given I’ve seen a lot of business partnerships that don’t end well, should we even bother trying? Are we better going it alone and bringing in employees, or contractors or joint venture partners on specific terms that we control?

There’s a school of thought that says people who go it alone in business will always fail as they don’t have the support they need. This is obviously not true and you can quickly come up with many examples of individual success (eg. Richard Branson, Andrew Forrest). Just as quickly, you can come up with examples of partnerships working (Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, the dudes from Atlassian profiled recently in the newspaper). So what’s best and how to make it work and where does this notion of being too laid-back fit in?

Now, I’m certainly no relationship expert, but for me, if you’re in a partnership, one thing you need is a shared view of where you want the business to go. If the vision isn’t clearly articulated and agreed upon, you won’t feel like you’re moving in tandem towards the same goal. You will be far less likely to act together in the best possible ways to reach the peak of either of your goals. You’re more like to resent each other as you move towards different, conflicting internal goals.

Where does the problem start? Perhaps from our laid-back, she’ll be right nature that means we don’t make the effort of defining and discussing what we want. We may not discuss whether we are getting there in the best possible way and whether we are both fully committed. We may not clarify roles and expectations. Things can ok but they’re not great and then, out of the blue, we find our business partner is in Europe. Was it a case of being too laid-back to have the hard conversations? Perhaps it’s partly a choice, stop being laid-back and have the hard conversations or watch the partnership slowly die. Interested in your thoughts.