Businesses can fail for many different reasons. Sometimes the product didn’t fit the market. Sometimes the window of opportunity closed before the balance in the bank account ran dry. And sometimes partnerships fall apart.
For a young company with few employees, perhaps the most painful business failure comes from the disintegration of a business partnership or when a company’s founders decide to go their separate ways.
I experienced this personally during my time at a software consultancy. I had started the company with a friend, and the future looked bright as early on we achieved success in selling our services. However, over the course of a year, our partnership came crashing down as we couldn’t reconcile different long-term visions we had for the company. We subsequently lost trust in each other, and from there business collapsed. It was clear that our partnership wouldn’t make it much longer.
Everything came crashing down in a matter of weeks. And, since I was the minority shareholder, my partner terminated me. The sudden end was jarring. My emotions flared with anger. Everything I had worked so hard for was now gone.
The next few months were painful as I picked up the pieces. But in the end, I found myself in a better place than ever. So, how does one quickly bounce back from a failed business partnership? By moving through these nine steps below, you can get through it quickly and emerge stronger than you were before.
1) Take a Break
Clear your mind of everything related to your former partner and former business. When your emotions are running high, and you’re constantly fed reminders of what just happened, it’ll only feed animosity and ill will. Take a complete break. Send your work email into another folder so you can’t see it every time you open your inbox. Throw away business related items you don’t need to retain for legal or tax reasons. Let yourself relax.
2) Get Physically Healthy
Business problems can lead to high levels of stress, and it’s easy to ignore your physical health during these times. When everything came crashing down, it was likely that you forgot about exercise, sleep, and nutrition. However, this only leads to you spiraling further out of control, as lack of sleep, healthy food, and exercise will cause more stress. Get out of your rut by getting your health back. The endorphins from exercise will naturally make you feel better, and proper nutrition combined with enough sleep will keep you in the right frame of mind.
3) Don’t Take It Personally
It’s hard to determine exactly why your business didn’t work out. But most importantly, don’t take what happened personally. Just because this business didn’t work out it doesn’t make you a failure. History is rife with rags to riches stories, and examples of successful entrepreneurs who failed in business before. So this one didn’t work out, big deal, you’ve now got great experience and learned a ton that will help you with your next project. This business simply provided you with an education on how partnerships can fall apart. You’re now stronger because of this experience.
4) Do a Postmortem
Pretend you’re a hired consultant and you’re coming in to evaluate why the partnership or business didn’t succeed. Open up a pad of paper or journal, and start writing. First, do a free write exercise for 15 minutes. Write whatever comes to mind about your experience. Then go back over your notes and look for the main points. Why do you think problems occurred? This exercise is to help you think through the experience so you can learn from it. Simply reflect on what happened, and what you would do differently next time.
5) Keep The Lessons
Don’t forget what you learned from your postmortem. You can’t change history but you can use it to your advantage. Use your experience to hone your judgment for the next business venture you join. What risks will you now consider before embarking on your new projects? Write down the most important lessons you learned, and keep them in a safe place.
6) Look To The Future
Who do you want to be? What excites you today? Now that you’re no longer working on this business, what else do you want to achieve and accomplish with your life? Start thinking about the future again. Don’t let this one bad experience put a damper on your future. You’re still talented and have so much to give to the world. Move on and start thinking about your next adventure.
7) Reach Out To Your Former Partner
Even if you had an acrimonious split from your business partner, you don’t want to completely burn your bridge with them. You never know where he or she will end up, or how they may come back into your life again. It’s good to slowly start communicating with them again. Ease into repairing the relationship by sending them a useful article that reminded you of them. Or send them an introduction to an associate that may benefit them. The key here is to give something small just to get conversation going again. Show your former partner that you still care about them and are thinking about them.
8) Keep Up With Your Former Partner
Use LinkedIn to see your partner’s next move. Congratulate him or her for their success when they get a new job, or start a new company. Wish them well on their next journey in life, and let go of any grudges you carry or any jealous feelings you may have. Sincerely wish them well, and the benefits will come back around to you.
9) See Your Former Partner Again
When you have the opportunity, ask your former partner to grab coffee with you. Show them that there are no hard feelings. Use former business activities as a way to reminisce and laugh about the good and the bad. You want to position yourself in a way so you can be helpful to your former partner. Perhaps you’ll be at the same company again in the future, or you can help each other in another way. The business world is small, and it’s important to maintain allies and friends. Moreover, when you have a healthy relationship with your former partner, you’ll be in a better place to move on with your life.