How do you convince a partner to put in the same amount of work?


I have a partner for our small business and over the past few months he has been putting in less and less time in the business. Its a small business we both operate as mail order. I handle the internet and marketing side where he takes care of the relationships with our suppliers. Those relationships have begun to suffer and I find myself taking the lion's share of the work.

Every month we split our income 50/50 but incomes are down a lot over the last 2 years.
We have been partners for around 4 years, and were friends before this.


asked Dec 9 '10 at 07:49
2,079 points
  • You need to talk with him and ask him how he's doing and what is going on. Ask him what he thinks you both can do to fix it. Ask him if he noticed the decline in revenue. Your drop in revenue coincides with lots of other economic downturn... It might not be all because of him. – Tim J 13 years ago
  • @tim great point about the economic downturn. You make some very valid points while my answer only focused on the mechanics of the problem. – Frank 13 years ago
  • I would have upvoted the question but I think the OP is already expecting that the problem is with the other partner. There may be health issues or other things going on. Fizzle assumes the other person is not pulling his weight. Best thing to do is talk to the partner - not to us. – Tim J 13 years ago

2 Answers


First, have the difficult conversation of asking if your partner is still interested in the business or not. If so, what is the issue? Is the partner's abilities stretched? Are there roadblocks in the business or outside? Differences of priorities/opinions? Are you in the one who is in the wrong and are under-evaluating your partner? This is a conversation you need to have first, in that you must clearly define the problem.

If that goes generally well, and the partner is still invested in the business, the solution is one of better managing the assignment of responsibility, accountability and measurement/feedback. Find some planning software, list what things have to be done, establish larger goals and smaller tasks, track time on tasks, and evaluate each when complete. Base split on that, not on an arbitrary number not tied to performance.

ADDED: Before having that "difficult conversation", prepare, prepare, prepare. What may surface when you start trying to "lance that boil" can surprise you. Don't assume the standard lazy-partner thing, it could be a personal problem that you don't expect and don't have the emotional tools to deal with.

answered Dec 9 '10 at 07:56
1,383 points
  • I dont think its lazyness i just think he has decided to focus on other things or is waiting out the bad economy – Frank 13 years ago
  • If you are 100% sure of this, then you must weigh the costs of keeping him on board vs the costs of going alone. Also, you should still have that conversation. If that is true, there's nothing to say you couldn't come to some mutual solution that would allow him to work through the economy with the understanding that he plans his succession well. Don't think of the problem too much. Try to establish the concerns and work out a win-win. (And, honestly, if you can't, you do need to cut.) – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • I upvoted this because I firmly believe in this softer approach. Getting right down to the math, and what different kinds of work is worth is just too much up for debate. You need to ask him about his reasons for changing what he puts in. Maybe it's for a good reason. Maybe he's not happy. Having an unhappy partner is never good (business or personal). You need to get past that and move on, no matter how. – John Sj√∂lander 13 years ago


A simple fix to this problem is to value the work that you guys each put in as salaries. You should have probably done this from the beginning but it is not too late.

You both own 50% of the company. That is fair, what is not fair is that you put in all the work while he lags.

What you could do is agree on a scale where each of you get paid for your efforts.
YOu could do this hourly or per task.

So you can tell your partner that work on the website is worth $20 per hour, while marketing work is worth $25 per hour, $15 for customer service and $22.50 for building relationships with vendors. Once you have all these values assigned (my examples will be different than your own business), then you divide up weekly tasks.

If this week you need to spend 10 hours on the site, 3 on marketing and 15 more on vendor relationships you bill your own company, as an employee accordingly:

So you bill:

10 x $20.0 = $200

03 x $25.0 = $75

15 x $22.5 = $337.50

Total = $612.50

The 612.50 becomes a business expense, and whatever is left over you guys still share 50/50. This way you are getting some value for the extra work you put in. Or if he decides to put in tons of work it is valued.

You want to make these rates equal to what someone else could do the work for.
Maybe a time will come when you only use employees or contracts to do the actual day to day work while you both share the 50/50 income.

answered Dec 9 '10 at 07:56
2,079 points
  • THANKS FRANKY! This is exactly what I Needing. I think I can use the idea above to give proper value to all the work we each do and then know what our real bottom line is and how much we each put in. – Frank 13 years ago
  • No worries, parnerships can be tough, but think positive and remember you guys probably would not have a business if it were not for both of you. Go the salary route but give high consideration to the points made by Tim and Alpha. It could be deeper than him just not being into the business anymore. Worst case, one of you becomes a silent partner or gets bought out. – Frank 13 years ago
  • One concern, Fizzle, is that if you jump to Frank's solution too quickly, you just shift the argument. Is marketing worth $25/hr or $35/hr? Well, to the marketeer, the latter. To the non-marketeer, likely the former. So, instead of arguing on the relative amount of work being done, you will start arguing on the relative *worth* of the work. Be careful. – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • PS: As for Franky's solution, in and of itself, it's fine. No problems there. His post expands the latter half of my second paragraph. – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • all i gotta say is 8===D – Frank 13 years ago

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