Warning Signs - Part 2

Addressing Warning Signs and Revitalising your Partnership

If your business or community group has identified warning signs of problems in your partnership, the next step is to try and fix them.

There are several basic ways both community groups and businesses can address these warning signs in a way that not only resolves the deeper problems they point to but also revitalises the partnership for the longer term.

A key point to remember is that virtually no single problem or warning sign is in it itself fatal to a community-business partnership. What can be fatal is a combination of problems, or a situation where community business partners do not address those problems when they are small and manageable.

The following list looks at some possible problems, and what you can do to adress them.

  • Lack of planning.
To address a lack of planning in a certain area or issue, both partners need to zero in on which aspects of the partnership need to be spelt out better, and to do so quickly.
Once that is done, both partners need to co-operatively work through the planning of those aspects of the partnership, adding them to a modified partnership agreement.
It is not ideal to have to do this mid-partnership, as planning should have been completed before the partnership was set up. However, completing some emergency planning to fix the problems is better than having to end your partnership.
  • Lack of communication.
A lack of communication can cause such problems as confusion, a lack of direction, a lack of feedback or discussion, conflict, and anger.
To fix the problem, community group and business partners need to revisit or modify the communication guidelines they set up when planning their partnership.
This may involve a better meeting schedule or improved ways of discussing, debating and providing feedback on the partnership and its progress.
The Help Sheets entitled Health Check-Up - Business and Health Check-Up - Community at the Community Business Partnerships Brokerage Service section of the Our Community website give some hints on a partnership's communication needs.
  • Problems with measuring partnership progress or unclear or unrealistic goals.
These problems can cause confusion, arguments, a lack of direction, or anger, or can see goals not achieved.
Again, solid planning at the start of the partnership should have outlined the goals and partnership measurement tools that you and your partner planned to use.
However, your partnership may have altered and consequently made those tools and aims unviable, so both partners may need to be flexible enough to review their goals and decide how they are going to measure the success of the partnership.
If the worst comes to the worst, your partnership in its present form may need to be disbanded to allow for a new arrangement.
  • Problems with an unfair sharing of benefits and responsibilities, or a lack of benefits to the community.
These problems can also cause conflict, apathy and anger, as well as seeing goals not being achieved.
If this is a problem in your partnership, partners need to revisit consideration of the benefits and responsibilities they have in the partnership, as well as what the partnership is giving to the community.
There may be a need for a reallocation of responsibilities if one partner is struggling, or if the partnership dynamic has changed.
  • Resource or time commitment problems in the partnership.
These can cause apathy, staleness, conflict and anger, as well as resulting in goals not being achieved and a lack of return on investment for the partner who remains committed. These problems may have been caused by changes in your partnership dynamic, or changes in the personal situations of those in the partnership.
If this has occurred, discuss ways of altering the commitments each partner gives to the partnership so they better suit the time and resources they have.
However, if there are serious time commitment problems for one or both partners, consideration may have to be given to radically altering or even ending the partnership, as without this sort of commitment a partnership will not prosper.
  • Attitude problems (lack of respect, honesty, trust and commitment).
These sorts of attitudes &ndash respect, honesty, trust and commitment &ndash are, in many ways, what community business partnerships are based on.
If attitude problems come to the fore in your partnership, it may be because of the actions of one or both partners.
Open and honest communication, dealing with the issues at hand and not resorting to insults and cheap shots, is the best way to try and deal with these sorts of problems.
  • A small number of partnership drivers.
This problem can result in the partnership becoming stale or in feelings of apathy.
If partners recognise this as a problem, it is probably time to inject some fresh blood, or to brainstorm for new ideas and new initiatives.
  • A lack of common values.
Partners must have some common ground or philosophies to base their relationship on - if not, it will not work.
Elements of common ground should have been identified in the initial planning, as they are the things your partnership should be based around.
If your partnership is struggling because of a lack of common ground, you and your partner need to rediscover your common goals quickly, or you could have to end or seriously modify your partnership.
  • Previous unresolved conflict.
Again, a previous conflict between business partners should have been resolved before your partnership got off the ground. However, if what you thought was resolved flares again, both parties need to sit down and make peace, resolving the issue.