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So to set the scene, I am in a small, local business that is run by myself, and a partner (Bob). We have a mentor/retired colleague (Dave) that does help us with learning things like business management, sales, etc, but is not actively involved in the business.

The business was started by Dave and myself about 10 years ago. Due a to a job that we believed would be a good turnaround (quick development, low maintenance and good ROI), we brought in Bob to help. Bob and Dave had some personal relationship in the past,

However, being a small business, we are only able to pay ourselves on commission. As part of the agreement, we also offered Bob partnership in the business, which he agreed to. Dave then retired and stayed on as a mentor only, allowing Bob to step up. Bob does have some business experience, but it has only been in running a "one-man band", which has not worked well in the past, and does not work in this business either. Over the next 12 months, I attempted to bring Bob up to scratch with the plan that Dave and I had created for the business, and attempted to help him get on board with the timeline. This is where the issues began.

Over the next 12 months it became apparent that Bob had a lot of personal issues, which at first seemed reasonable, but the main issue was that he had an issue with "Authority", in that he doesn't like "working for other people", but also has a "need" to please them, which leads to further issues such as cutting corners to make for shorter deliveries, overworking himself in order to meet the delivery times; and then when confronted about these issues, will revert to using the previous "personal problems" as an excuse to dodge the question or blame.

At first, we took that on board, and have been trying to help him understand that asking for a delivery date should be something properly considered, as we had workshopped, and Dave, Bob and I have had many discussions, both one-on-one, and in a group for the past 12 months about how to deal with these issues. Creating practices for him to remember, writing up reminders (for both of us, so that he wouldn't feel like he's the one causing problems, in hopes of creating a comfortable environment), as well as helping him build his confidence by giving him the role of managing meetings, etc. However, as Bob became more comfortable, his investment in the business became less apparent, and his self-interest came to the forefront.

Bob has contributed to the business, and if he were to leave it would be a serious step back; I do not believe that the business would be able to survive the split. However, the fact that he is only in it for himself; to get paid what he wants and to be the one "in charge" is also going to run the business into the ground as well, and his behavior is childish, selfish, and is not considering the future of the business.

Dave and I have had a long talk about this, and we have arrived at either:

  • subliminally demoting him (i.e. take away his overall responsibility, and give him authority over projects in the business only)
  • giving him what he wants, and let him learn from his mistakes
  • splitting the assets of the business, and going our separate ways

I have devoted 10 years to this business, for it to have been pushed back into a situation of "stuck between a rock and a hard place". I am basically at a point where I have to undo the last 4 years of business development I have made, or give up on a business that I have spent 10 years learning to develop.

I have always had a third-person approach to dealing with "whats best for the business", keeping my personal feelings out of it, but in the last few months, I have been unable to avoid them. Bob has become detrimental to the productivity of the business, distracting both Dave and I from what we are trying to work on, by making it sound like he needs our help, only to get angry at the advice or help when we provide it. He doesn't listen at business meetings (pointed out several times by asking him to paraphrase what we have said to show he understands), doubling or even tripling his timelines when we review work, and constantly brings up his "problems" whenever he gets stressed out by simple discussions.

His behaviour is (as I see it) childish, selfish, and egotistical. At this point, I do not know what course of action I should take, for myself as a business manager, or as an employee of the business. As a manager, I do want the business to continue, but as an employee, I am more keen on looking for another job instead.

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    We know who runs the business, but who owns it? – Gregory Currie May 10 at 8:57
  • Dave and his wife. They have said they are invested in continuing the business, but they don't see it working without my involvement (at least not without some serious work). – Ben May 10 at 9:22
  • Does "Dave and his wife" own the business, or is Bob a partner? What about a 4th option: Letting Bob buy you and Dave out? – spuck May 10 at 14:50
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    What sort of answer are you looking for exactly? Whether or not you should quit? Some sort of magic that will change Bob so he’s more to your liking? I think this question needs a little more focus. What is one very specific problem that, if solved, would be a big step toward making you stay at the business instead of quit? Bob being bad at his job and ignoring plans he didn’t help make is not specific enough. – ColleenV May 10 at 17:01
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You refer to yourself as a "manager", but who is Bob's manager? I think problem number one here is that however this business was established, there were no clearly defined roles of actual authority, and you are paying for that shortcoming in the present.

The comments above refer to "Dave and his wife" as legal owners of the business. If that's true, and Bob does not report to you, then Bob is technically not YOUR problem. If Dave is an owner but has stepped back and doesn't want to deal with Bob's issues, you're stuck, pal.

I think it's really high time that you have some conversation with Dave on who's responsible for what, because it's only a matter of time before things fall apart as-is.

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