How do I get my partners to focus on the job at hand rather than pursuing grand follies?

How do I get my partners to focus on the job at hand rather than pursuing grand follies?

Dear Aunty B,

I have two partners who have been with me since we started. We are also great mates and have worked really well together.

Our problem is that we are looking at a horrible year for profit. We need to scale back and refocus urgently.

But my business partners are embarking on adding new parts of the business. While that may have seemed a good idea a year ago, now one venture in particular looks like a folly, while the other might be a great long-term proposition but at the moment we can’t afford to find out.

I am becoming really nervous that I can’t refocus them on the basics because they will, to put it frankly, be bored and resist.

I don’t want to fight with them but I have always acted as the leader, although I am not a chief executive. Our general manager reports to all of us. So I suppose my question is this: “How do I call my directors to attention without annoying them?”

Not Boring


Dear Not Boring,

Thank goodness they have you! Directors who go off on a frolic of their own because they have done a job once and don’t want to do it again, and then won’t come to heel when they need to are more common than you think.

Look, here is what you must do. Appoint yourself chief executive immediately. Do it nicely, of course. Tell them how awful it is being chief executive, the lonely days listening to people complain, the long nights when you can’t sleep because of stress.

Let them know that you are willing to take on this great burden because it’s time! A structure with three people running a business is a start-up structure.

At your stage you must have a chief executive who everyone reports to, including directors. That way when they wander off, you have two choices.

You either appoint someone under them to focus on the basics, learn the job from them, and give them a special projects title. Or you point out that their business is not compatible with the targets for the main business, and they should probably pursue it somewhere else. I know it will be tough changing the structure, but you can’t grow or even regroup unless you do.

Be Smart,

Your Aunty B

This article was first published on February 17, 2012. Aunty B is on holidays sailing the South Pacific and sipping piña coladas, but she will be back soon with fresh advice for your business.


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