While it is perfectly natural to have disagreements with your business partner from time to time, dealing with someone who consistently questions and interferes with your work can be frustrating and will ultimately have a negative impact on your business. So, what can you do to navigate such a difficult working relationship? Gene Marks and Elizabeth Larkin advise small business owners on how to handle an obstructionist.

Executive Summary

1:19 Today’s Topic: What Should I Do If My Small Business Partner is an Obstructionist?

1:38—Prior to going into business with someone, you need to make sure that you and your partners have compatible goals and working styles.

2:16—Open communication is the key to handling a colleague who is very risk-averse.

2:44—If you are already working with an obstructionist, it is important to pick your battles and compromise when you experience differences in opinions.

4:25—Recruiting external input from your fellow colleagues or established authority figures can give credence to your opinions and help persuade your partner to see things from your perspective.

5:30—Gene reassures small business owners that they don’t have to overly concern themselves with Twitter because only 20% of the population owns an account and only 10% of Twitter users are active contributors.


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  • Transcript

    Elizabeth: Welcome back to another episode of The Small Biz Ahead Podcast. This is Elizabeth Larkin from The Hartford, and I’m here with Gene Marks from The Marks Group.

    Gene: That’s me. Yes.

    Elizabeth: Also a small business owner, and a speaker, and our small business expert.

    Gene: Yeah, yeah and a learner of all things small business, man, am I learning. Surveys, I’ve got to take more surveys, it’s a whole other question.

    Elizabeth: Okay, today we’re going to focus on kind of a personal issue in the office, and I can’t wait to get Gene’s take on this because it’s about when your business partner is an obstructionist. And we’re going to be right back with Gene’s take on that after we hear from our sponsor.

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    QUESTION: What do you do if your small business partner is an obstructionist?

    Elizabeth: Okay, today’s question came in anonymously and she asks “What do you do if your business partner is an obstructionist? I struggle with a business partner who is both risk averse and hates change” So what do you do?

    Gene: Well, first of all, the obvious is a lot of question about how you even chose to go into business with a business partner that doesn’t share the same values and goals. First of all, that’s one –

    Elizabeth: Well, that’s not what she said.

    Gene: It’s not but I do want to say that here’s a woman that’s having an issue with her business partner because she’s found out this person is an obstructionist and it’s big enough that it’s clearly having an impact on her so guys, if you’re thinking of starting up a business or going into business with somebody or having a partner, I think you need to have some conversations about, and know that person really well, before you go down that road.

    But let’s say you’re down that road, Elizabeth, and you’re working with somebody, maybe it’s a family member so you didn’t have a choice and the person is more risk averse, right, somebody that just doesn’t want to, you don’t see eye to eye on things. Obviously you have to talk these things out because it’s their money too in the end, and that is the important thing. But the biggest thing to do, Elizabeth, is like anything else, you’ve got to chose your battles. So there’s going to be some things that you’re going to have to give in to and some things you’re going to really want to go to the mat if you think it’s for the best.

    Even if somebody is very risk averse, if this person is in business with you, and by their very nature that means they were willing to take some risk otherwise they’d have a job somewhere or they’d be doing something that has less risk related to it. So that doesn’t mean that you can’t persuade that person to see your point of view or to accept more risk, you’re going to have to just work a lot harder at winning them over. And, you know what? Nobody likes to have these arguments all the time which means that you’re going to have to pick and chose when you have those arguments based on what’s really important that you think for the business.

    So for Jen, you know, listen. You probably have different conversations with your partner about should we buy this piece of equipment or should we hire this employee or should we invest in this marketing campaign? Well, you know, you’re going to have to accept the fact that this is your partner. You’re not going to win every one of those fights so maybe you don’t even want to have those fights. Maybe you just, you know, it is what it is but you prioritize and you pick the fight that you really think is the most important to you, and then you do a really good job of persuading that person to see it your way and the best way to persuade that person to see it your way is to take that person’s point of view.

    And say what, if I was my partner, you need to establish what is concerning them the most, then you have to address what those issues are. You’re already sold, you have to convince that person.

    Finally, when I’ve seen other clients of mine that have issues with partners in trying to get everybody to go along. They use outside influences, your accountant, your lawyers, trusted advisors, people that the partner, your partner, gives some credence to what they say and get them involved to see if they can help sway the opinion. But it’s politics.

    Elizabeth: Everything’s politics.

    Gene: And everything’s politics.

    Elizabeth: All right, we’ll be right back with Gene’s word of brilliance.


    Gene: Okay. All right, we’re back. This is Gene and I do have a word of brilliance for you, Elizabeth.

    Elizabeth: One word?

    Gene: Just one word this time. I might have used this word in the past but it’s a different context. The word is Twitter.

    Elizabeth: Okay.

    Gene: Obviously we all know how popular Twitter is, and a lot of businesses use it, and people ask all the time, “should I be using Twitter for my business, is Twitter right for my business?” I just want to share with you a couple of stats that came out in early 2019 from Pew Research. You can look this up. They did a very, very deep dive analysis of Twitter and it’s activities and it’s users and Elizabeth, here’s what Pew found out.

    Two big takeaways okay?

    Elizabeth: Okay.

    Gene: Takeaway number one was that about 20% of the population have Twitter accounts. Twitter accounts so they would be considered to be Twitter users which means that 80% of the population does not have Twitter accounts or would consider themselves to be Twitter users.

    The second big fact that they found out from their research is that 10% of the people on Twitter are generating 80% of the tweets and content on Twitter. So you get 20% of the whole population is on Twitter and only 10% of those are the ones that are generating 80% of the content going back and forth, and the reason why I bring that up is that if you are a small business and you think that your demographic are part of the 10% that’s actually, you’re active on Twitter, okay fine, knock yourself out, go for Twitter but I’m going to bet for most small businesses with our limited resources and so many options as to where to spend our marketing dollars, I’m just going to take this as my opinion, I’m going to take a bet that your business probably would be better off spending money somewhere else other than on Twitter for your marketing because your demographic is probably not there. And that’s just based on the numbers. So that’s my word of the day. Twitter.

    Elizabeth: Great. Thanks Gene. I always like it when you make a suggestion for small business owners, like you know what, here’s something, don’t even worry about it. Because I feel like we’re always coming at listeners like you should do this, what about this, think about this. It’s so great when you say, don’t even worry.

    Gene: I’m going to start doing that more. Not only when I do this but also when I write saying, you know, you’re right. There’s so many things that are blasted in our face and it’s nice to just be saying, don’t even pay that any attention, it’s not even worth your time.

    Elizabeth: We should actually do a podcast where we just do a To Don’t list, like do not do these things.

    Gene: I would love to do that. I think that’s a great idea.

    Elizabeth: Don’t worry about these things.

    Thank you so much for listening to us this week. We’ll be back next week with another episode of The Small Biz Ahead Podcast.

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