By Michael Gunther

One of my business partners, Lee, has accepted an offer to run one of the largest solar companies in the United States. This is a significant opportunity for him to continue to work with one of our past clients, and it also presents a new chapter for us in our business. While I’m sad to lose his partnership, reflecting on this situation has really sparked some interesting thoughts.

Have you ever had the experience of working with incredible partners – one where each member is confident in their abilities and comfortable enough to know when to rely on the other’s strengths, where the relationship and roles naturally fall into place without much energy or politicking? Where the partners can truly focus on their professional development, the business and the company’s longer term strategies? A partnership in which the partners truly respect and value each other as well as enjoy a strong personal friendship?

Well, that is the type of experience we’ve had at our firm, so seeing Lee transition into his new role has generated mixed emotions. Jennifer and I are truly excited for him, knowing that he has this great opportunity and challenge ahead, and we are confident he will find much success in this new endeavor.

At the same time, we’re now missing that third spoke of our wheel which brings its own set of anxiety and challenges. As partners, we’ve been used to healthy conversations, accountability and idea sharing, which led to high productivity in a seemingly effortless manner. So this got me thinking about relationships with not only partners, but employees and customers as well – shouldn’t all of them be relationships that are easy to navigate and maintain? In an ideal world that might be possible, but at least from the perspective of the foundation, relationships should have trust, respect and value attached to them without an excess of ego getting in the way of productive discussions and decisions.

This led me to begin evaluating the working relationships within my sphere of influence, and I started to recognize the relationships that might need some fine tuning. I also realize there are some which may not be the right business relationship for us at all.

Consider your client relationships. Do you recognize that some are easy and fulfilling while others take tremendous effort with not much reward? Is this really an issue of not defining a clear client profile for your business? Not every client is a good fit for every business, so you may need to learn how to say “no” to some during the sales process.

When you look at your employees, would you hire them all again? I often ask this question to some of our clients when they continue to struggle with a specific employee. Maybe the individual is just not the right fit for the organization.

Bottom Line

I do realize strong relationships require all parties to have the desire to invest the time and effort necessary into making the relationship solid. But at some level it should come naturally, so if you find that you really have to work at just getting the basic levels of the relationship built, over time you must question whether or not it’s the right fit.

As for Lee, we wish him the best of luck in his new role at Mainstream Energy and I am confident our relationship will continue to evolve to a new level as business advisor and friend. Lee, thank you for your assistance in pushing our partnership and organization to new levels!

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. To read the previous articles in this series, visit his blog at

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. Learn more at

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