Once upon a time, when I worked in corporate, a more senior colleague told me a story that has stuck with me for years.
It was the story of his wife and him. They began life, as most couples did, close. They had children and his focus turned to his career. His wife made the choice to invest her time in their family. My colleague rose up the ranks at work, accepting an overseas assignment. His family moved with him, leaving their lives back in Australia.
My colleague launched headfirst into his role, which was a more senior posting. However, for his wife and family it was a different story. Slowly they began to drift apart.
As a child of a divorced family, I've always grown up brutally aware that many relationships don't last forever. Business is no different. In many cases when I work with firms, some of the most obvious and damaging issues aren't about pricing or marketing or systems or even staffing. Often the most poisonous thing in a business can be the venom of a soured partnership.
Why does it happen? Well, people change. Whereas two individuals might meet with the clearest of aligned goals, it's almost inevitable that over time those objectives will change. Expectation is another one, especially when it's combined with poor communication. One persons passing comment can easily become anothers' promise. Then there are aspects of personality.
Someone with a specific set of values may find themselves (at least in the early days) unchallenged by another persons opposing values, until a key event comes along which puts them in clear confrontation.
Frankly, it's inevitable that at some time in your business career you are going to reach a point of serious difference with your partners.
So, what can you do to avoid it? And, if the time has come, what can do you to extract yourself from the situation without it coming to hardcore unpleasantness?
To begin with, realise that communication is king.
During the relationship.
And finally, if it's over.
The good news is my colleague was able to catch the situation, and reconnect with his wife and family. If it weren't for the realisation on their parts, it's highly likely they would have divorced as strangers.
They remain happily married today. Whilst the same can't always be said for broken business relationships, it pays to walk away, if not as friends, then at least not as enemies.
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