A small company with four partners – that began as good friends starting a business together - noticed that they had lost the pleasure of entrepreneuring together. The once so energetic meetings with entrepreneurial plans and beers had been replaced by periods of radio silence. The friendly focus on each other had watered down to conversations about, rather than with each other. And the organizational model that was supposed to provide the friends with entrepreneurial space, a solid income and sorrow-free retirement, lately only resulted in difficult conversations about money, turnover and ‘receipts procedures'.
In the hope of regaining momentum, one of the partners asked us to help them to have an in-depth conversation with each other. Taking into account that not all parties were open to such support.
In a first step, we spoke to all the partners separately. The intention was to make real contact with them. And to examine the individual perspectives on the state of their collaboration and get a sense of possible ways for improvement.
By getting a sense of everyone’s interests and aspirations in this way, it became clear that work was needed on two levels. First of all, on the level of relationships and mutual connection. So, we called a meeting in which we supported everyone to express themselves to each other on some of the most controversial topics. And to listen. By exchanging the different perspectives and personal experiences of certain events, something of a shared understanding was regained. Statements such as 'Now I understand what it's like for you...' or even 'I hear you, but I really look at that in a different way' lifted the mood and created a new basis for future conversations on the most difficult themes.
Secondly, it became clear that the organizational model needed changes. Such a model (and the associated financial flows) should be supportive of the goals people want to realize. Structure follows from, and supports, the ambition. But here, the model had become an obstacle. So, we started anew: by defining principles about how the team wanted to shape the organization, and translating these principles into consistent practices, processes and structures: finance, IT, HR, collaboration structures, meetings, profit distribution... We ended up with a clear new model, agreed upon by all.
The process brought a breath of fresh air to the relationships and new perspectives for the future. That turned out to be all that these friends needed to rekindle the spirit of their early days as entrepreneurs and work together on the future of their company.