Business dynamics

Are you running your SME as a duo? Good for you! It can be really fun, exciting and rewarding as you learn, achieve and enjoy the wins together – especially when you get along. You might even be friends with a shared passion and vision.

But what if it doesn’t feel like it’s quite working? Maybe you each come from really different backgrounds or think in very different ways. Being The Odd Couple can feel pretty awkward at times.

Don’t worry! More often than not, what seems like a personality clash is actually a good thing. That ‘awkward’ exists for a reason: so that your business gets the best overview possible. You rub off on them, they rub off on you, and looking at a challenge from all sides catches problems as they emerge. Work solo and personal views can be so set in stone that they’ll blind you from allowing the business to reach its full potential. 

Even if you and your business partner don’t quite gel (like a pair of easy-going ‘pub mates’ that you’d secretly prefer to be), so long as you’ve a shared goal, you’ll find your way through.

I should know: I had a classic ‘Clash of the Titans’ vibe with my old business partner. We used to call ourselves Jagger and Richards and as such, we were big personalities who got along well most of the time for the same goals but there’d inevitably be occasional blow-ups that had to be navigated very carefully and which made us both feel thrown off.

My old business partner and I were generally on different pages, character-wise. He was obsessed with growth, I was obsessed with efficiency. 

“Speed up to increase cash balances!” … “Sure, but do we have the infrastructure to cope?”

“Slow down to repair and prepare for scale!” … “Yes, but we need to increase cash balances for the quieter months…”

These opposing viewpoints felt uncomfortable but they inevitably led to focused decision-making as we shaped the future direction of the business. It was a lot of fun and it often got heated.

How did we make it work? We checked our egos at the door and only concern ourselves with objectively serving the business needs. It didn’t happen overnight and took a lot of practice!

What did work was our Rule Of Six. This was half a dozen ‘rules of thumb’ that we created early on to stop us losing our rag or our sanity.

Anything goes.
Interruptions are fine.
Challenge is good.
Trust your gut! Instinct can also be rationale.
Undecided? Sleep on it.
Don’t agree? Then it doesn’t happen, for now.

Through this process we scaled our business from a £10k credit card debt to a £12 million turnover.

So what’s the point I am making here? 

Your business has to evolve to survive and remain relevant. And that only comes through good-decision making through bringing differences to the table with a united goal in place. 

This ‘coming-to-an-understanding’ type of talk takes longer, no question. But when it becomes habit and is in place, it’s a powerful tool. There’s value in opposing viewpoints and ‘travel fast, travel alone – travel far, travel together’ is true. As such, even though this type of team talk takes longer, it’s worth it for the long game. 

Surround yourself with similar people and you’ll consistently produce samey, unchallenged results for your business – and that inevitably leads to decline. When a company is a monoculture you can arrive at decisions faster but it’s a more sturdy, richer base when people are different: different in who they are, where they’re from, how they think. 

Even when it’s just the two of you. (Not for long, though, I’ll bet!)

Best of luck and let me know if this article resonates with you.