Friday, September 24, 2010

Don't Let this Tear Your Business Apart

In business, after some initial success, partners and family members who are in business together at times start to go in different directions. It's not intentional. Just that each has their own vision of the future. If this is not brought to surface and resolved, it can turn into a tug-of-war, wasting precious resources. It can even tear apart the business. Everyone looses.

Let's dig deeper and look at what happens.

In business, according to Bradford, Duncan and Tarcy, authors of Simplified Strategic Planning (an excellent read) there are six different strategic focus areas by which one can lead the business. These include:

1. Product/Service
2. Market/Customers
3. Technology
4. Raw Materials
5. Distribution Channel
6. Capabilities

For the business to be successful, while it may contain elements of more then one of these, only one can be the primary driver. If the primary driver/focus is not chosen and agreed upon, significant resources end up being wasted in the tug-of-war that follows. For the purposes of this post, I want to focus on two of the six:

1. Market/Customer Focus
2. Product/Service Focus

In market/customer focus, the focus is more on serving the target market. If say one partner feels really connected with a specific space, s/he will want to go deeper into this space. For example, let's assume a partner serves the dental market, supplying tooth brushes. Given the excellent relationships she experiences with those she serves, she may choose to also sell other products to this market, such as floss, tooth paste, x-ray film, office equipment, and so on. She simply loves her clients and want to do more for them. It's more about the market then what is sold.

In product/service focus, say for the other partner, it's not about the dental market but that he just loves brushes. His view is if dental offices buy brushes, then he can expand his product line to include other kinds of brushes and expand into for other markets. For example, this could include selling brushes to auto repair shops, to manufacturing facilities, and so on. He simply loves brushes regardless of type of brushes and who they are sold to. It's more about what is sold then the market.

When this difference surfaces, if partners are not aware of what's happening here, they may conclude something like that the other is just stubborn, just doesn't get it, and so on. Before you know it, wedge has been driven, going deeper and deeper overtime, and eventually leading to the partnership being split. Alternatively, they continue to have this tug-of-war, wasting precious resources and experiencing stress as well.

If you are experiencing this situation or know of business partners who are, it's important to discuss this objectively and settle on one strategic focus, for the sake of the business and the partnership.

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