To run a small business well, you need to face and address problems as soon as they appear, but some situations can take us by surprise, especially if we’re inexperienced business owners. This new franchisee is unsure how to approach a business partner – and, awkwardly, family member – who isn’t pulling their weight, and who doesn’t want to talk about it. Expert executive coach Soraya Shaw offers a few ways to tackle the situation… 

Q:I recently bought a childcare franchise with my sister in law, who I’ve always got on really well with. Now we’re working together, we still get on, but although she was an enthusiastic supporter of buying the franchise in the first place, she’s failing to pull her weight at actually running the business. I don’t think she realises how much work it entails – she turns up late, and is focusing on low priority stuff and minor details instead of prioritising crucial ‘next steps’ and essential daily tasks. I have tried talking to her about it – she promises to do more, does make more effort for a couple of days, but then it’s back to the same pattern. I’m worried I’ve made a big mistake. How can I encourage a more permanent change without upsetting her and breaking up the family?

Soraya answers:Reading between the lines of your question, there seem to me to be a few factors that stand out, and which may be having an impact on how you’re both running the company and your business partnership.

Working with someone is very different from having a strong friendship.
What are the roles in your relationship now? Have they changed? It sounds as though you are the dominant driving force. Effective communication is really important – do you think that you may be being too directive, and not working to a more shared, collaborative style? If you are, this could be making her withdraw and not feel that her views are being heard or appreciated, which could be at odds with how you are as friends. It could also be impacting her motivation.

What could be causing her to lose motivation?
The key factors in motivation in the workplace are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Does she feel as though she has autonomy in her role? Does she have the skills to complete the tasks that are set for her? What was her reason for buying the franchise with you, and what does she want to achieve from it, in both the short and longer-term? Does it give her a purpose in life, or is it a distraction from other things that she may want to do?

Does she feel confident in her role?
Often people avoid tasks that they don’t feel qualified to do – not that they don’t necessarily have the skills to do. From what you are saying about her turning up late and not focusing on the crucial next steps, does she feel out of her depth? Often when we focus on low priority stuff, as you put it, we are staying in our comfort zone as many people fear taking on work that they may not be sure about or lack the confidence to do. Is this something you need to talk through with her, or does she just need her confidence building?

Lastly, how are you agreeing priorities and responsibilities?
Are you establishing some form of accountability and ownership? It may be worth looking at your structure and processes around this, and prioritising more to each other’s skills and experience. Also, how do you define what is a priority? It’s very easy to see everything as urgent, and this can be overwhelming for many people, and distracts from developing a clear strategy around the needs and direction of your business.”


Soraya is the founder & director of Springboard Coaching, which specialises in management and leadership development. If you have a business or work-related stress related problem you can’t find the answer to, she’ll be happy to answer on this blog – just comment below or contact us here with your question.

For advice on how to insure against the loss of key employees, business partners or shareholders, click here to contact us or give us a ring on 0844 809 4897. There’ll be no obligation or high-pressure sales – that’s not how we do business!

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