Many businesses are started by couples or partners. They tackle challenges together and share operational responsibilities as the company grows. As business complexity increases the partners begin partitioning responsibilities. This often happens naturally and smoothly, in step with company growth.
Problems creep in with those operational responsibilities that remain shared. Unless both partners can keep the details and nuances of past decisions around a shared responsibility, inconsistency in response to emerging issues will arise. Examples could be in purchasing, sales terms, vacation scheduling, or any other operational matters needing decisions, especially where negotiations are needed.
Eventually, the increased volume of operational decisions needed due to business growth drives the partners to rush decisions, just to keep up. Written policies and procedures can reduce the need for resolving the same issue repeatedly. But, these may not deal well with issues requiring thoughtful deliberation. As leadership time becomes increasingly precious, it makes sense to reduce or remove redundancy where possible.
Otherwise, the partners either collaborate or deal with the matter alone, hoping their decision is consistent with that the other partner would make. This is arguably not a problem for trivial issues, but if left unchecked will result in frustration and morale damages to those on the receiving end of the inconsistent decisions.
Customers, employees, and suppliers will readily become skilled at picking which partner to approach. Others will be frustrated by the inconsistent signals given by the owners to similar situations. Hence, the two-headed monster label gets applied.
The solution is to have the partners partition their operational responsibilities so that direct overlap is removed. Redundancy should be retained, but with the clear distinction between primary authority and backup. For each area of overlap, the backup partner should be accountable to the primary partner. Partners should inform one another of any substantive decisions made while in a backup role, to help maintain consistency.
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