Business Management

How to Handle It When Business Partners Fight

Keeping squabblers from each other’s throats may simply be a matter of working out an agreement beforehand.

“But my partner had been focusing on the ‘glory’ of owning a business, and she resented the work we had to do ourselves in the beginning, like the janitorial stuff. I knew we couldn’t just start a business and have it take off, but this surprised and scared her. You also have to put a lot of money back into the business at the start to keep it going.”


Successful partnerships, like successful marriages, find methods to help them survive.

Christine says she and Robert usually discuss a problem as soon as it arises. “We talk it through, come up with solutions, and shoot holes through it. We must come up with every angel before the employees do.”

The Derrs’ management system uses what they call “good cop, bad cop.” “He’s more positive; I’m more negative,” admits Christine.


Takahara and Gilmore use something they call “the hate rule” to make tough decisions and prevent hard feelings. If one of them really hates an idea, it won’t be done. Takahara recalls a time when one of them wanted to introduce a new product. The other partner didn’t want to and the matter was dropped.

South and Rueda use the opposite of the hate rule. Rather, South says that if one person is dead set for something, they do it, unless the other partner can make a legitimate argument against it. “That method can keep you out of trouble,” South admits. “Sometimes somebody will just be so gung ho that they aren’t able to see potential problems. But if the other partner can’t think of one, we go for the idea, even if one of us isn’t exactly exiled by it.

Recently, South wanted to buy an electronic master hair coloring machine. Rueda was hesitant because the cost was $2,700. South convinced his partner with the argument that a 40-minute job done by hand could be reduced to six minutes with the machine, and with the increased number of people they’d be able to service, the machine would pay for itself in a few months. Rueda had no counter-argument, the machine was purchased, and South is very happy with his new equipment.


The fact that partnerships can sometimes lead to conflicts isn’t an argument against ever being part of one. “I think the salon is further ahead in nails since Christine joined us,” says Robert. “She’s helped out tremendously. She does the payroll, our monthly calendar, promotions – a lot of things I was doing – that has freed up my time. She’s been a definite plus, no doubt about it. It’s great knowing that something is going to be done the way I want it done.”

Both Gilmore and Takahara were fully booked when their salon first opened, but they quickly realized that it was impossible to do nails full time and run the business. They’ve since worked out a schedule where they both do business work and nail work 2½ days every week.

Gilmore has taken on the accounting, marketing, inventory, and retail responsibilities, while Takahara trains employees, acts as employment manager, and does payroll. “I can talk in front of 200 people, but I have trouble with one-on-one,” admits Gilmore.

Even though Gilmore handles much of the business and financial aspects of the salon, Takahara says Gilmore has creative ideas. For example, when the two women wanted to boost their accessory retail, Gilmore tore out photos from fashion magazines and they set out to find earrings similar to those pictured. They now have a collection of earrings, beautifully arranged among Plexiglas stands, and their sales have increased substantially.

South and Rueda also divide tasks. South handles bookkeeping at Intrigue, while Rueda keeps the salon supplied with product and keeps an eye out for problems. Both still work with clients.

“If we have a lot we need to do, we just come in an hour early,” says South. “We alternate who watches the front. In the beginning we had a whole schedule set up, but now we just work things out as they come up. But it’s great knowing.


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