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Avoiding Partnership Disputes:
Five Keys to Dodging Disagreements

Avoiding Partnership Disputes: Five Keys to Dodging Disagreements

Partnerships often play a pivotal role in fostering growth, innovation, and mutual success for all types of organisations.

Over my 30 plus years in legal practice, I’ve advised on scores of partnership disputes and helped a wide range of people navigate those difficult separations. I’ve also been privileged enough to get to know people operating in successful partnerships. This has helped me understand the key elements that make for a successful partnership. Let’s explore them.

1. Communication

Effective communication is the bedrock of any successful partnership. Partners must be open, transparent, and willing to share ideas, concerns, and feedback (both good and bad). They also need to be able to discuss difficulties and issues without taking them personally, which is hard to do but vital. Regular communication fosters a deep understanding of each other’s goals, expectations, and working styles. This means everyone is on the same page, it minimises misunderstandings and paves the way for a harmonious and productive collaboration.

2. Shared Values and Goals

Partnerships thrive when there is shared vision and common goals. Partners should check, and re check, that their values and objectives are aligned. Partnerships that lack alignment are prone to conflicts and may struggle to overcome obstacles. By defining and regularly revisiting shared values and goals, partners can stay focused and motivated, creating a synergy that propels the partnership toward success. If they find there’s misalignment, then that needs to be explored.

3. Flexibility and Adaptability

Successful collaborations require partners to adapt to changing circumstances, markets, and priorities. Not everything will go as intended and partners need to prepare to work through these scenarios rather than viewing them as an indicator of disintegration in the relationship. I’ve seen partners weather incredibly testing times together and come out even stronger on the other side. Flexibility is key: being open to new ideas, adjusting strategies as needed, and embracing innovation. Partners who can navigate change together are much better equipped to overcome challenges and capitalise on opportunities.

4. Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Each partner should understand their specific contributions, tasks, and areas of expertise. This clarity minimises duplication of effort, reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings, and enhances overall productivity. Define these roles at the start and revisit them regularly.

5. Diverse and Complementary Skills

Partnerships work best when the partners have diverse, but complimentary skills and expertise. For instance, one partner might excel in creative thinking and innovation, while another excels in finance and operations. Successful partnerships celebrate and capitalise on these differences, rather than seeing them as a source of tension. Understanding and celebrating each other’s behavioural styles and skills-set is an important component in a successful partnership.

Having complementary skills fosters a sense of interdependence, where each partner relies on the other’s strengths. Diverse skills also contribute to a more holistic decision-making process. Different perspectives and approaches should lead to better decisions.


So there you have it – the five pillars of successful partnerships:

  • Communication
  • Shared values and goals
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Clear roles and responsibilities
  • Diverse and complementary skills

All of this boils down to one critical point: trust. Trust is the glue that holds partnerships together. I can’t think of anything more fundamental to a successful partnership. Trust is earned through consistent actions, reliability, and delivering on promises. It requires time and effort, but the dividends it pays in terms of productivity and satisfaction make it an essential element of a successful partnership. Put in place my five pillars and you are well on your way to a successful, trust-filled partnership. What’s more, you’ll never have to see me to resolve a dispute!

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