Friday 17 November 2017

Problem Solver: Couple's business would benefit from one partner leaving

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Feargal Quinn

Q: My husband and I run a business together. There is constant tension and as a result, the correct decisions are not been made for the business. I am very unsure about what we should do.

A: First and foremost, you are life partners. This has to be the priority. I have encountered several businesses over the years where working together has put a huge strain on personal relationships - to breaking point in some cases.

There are some key questions you should both ask yourselves. Are you happy within the business? Would one of you prefer to leave and get a full-time job working for someone else? Would the business be improved if one of you were to leave?

Life partners who run a business together but can't agree on the most vital issues typically are very bad for the future of the business. Very often one person says 'we should turn left' and the other says 'we should turn right'. In order not to rock the boat a decision is made to do nothing, thus paralysing the business.

What you are describing sounds like a very similar situation and, apart from being good for the business, you would both actually benefit in a very big way from one of you exiting the management of the business. I have no doubt this will be very difficult to do, but from a personal and business perspective it may well be the best solution.

It might be an idea to get an external business mentor to spend time with you both so as to understand if this would be the best solution. Having a third voice in the decision-making process can be very helpful.

Q: I RUN a small grocery shop in a small town. At its peak two decades ago, my sales were at €10,000 per week, now they are a little over €2,500 as the amount of retail competitors has grown enormously. Are there any words of wisdom you can share with me?

A: It's in my nature to be positive and offer encouragement if I can. I also need to be honest. When you started the business you had a product range that was not readily accessible to the people in your area and therefore there was a strong demand which allowed you to make a living.

With the changes in the retail landscape, in some towns, there is now a full supply or oversupply of food products in that region and from the sales collapse you have shown, this looks entirely possible in your case.

In its current format, the business is no longer viable and with sales of €2,500 a week, you are merely surviving either because you own the building or are not paying yourself. The figures simply can't work at that level. There are a number of possible options. Close down the business and see if you can lease the premises and perhaps get another job yourself. Have a good look around the area and see if there are any retail offers not being catered for, reduce your current product range and stock more of this new range.

I have no doubt that at the current sales level, you must be struggling with cash flow, etc, and the one certain piece of advice I can give you, is that it is bad for you personally to continue in this phase.

You have run a successful business for over two decades and that is something to be very proud of. Walking away from it now and possibly getting some revenue from renting the premises would be a good outcome.

Alternatively you might be about to start the next two decades in a new style of retailing in a new category which will bring you equal success.

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