This article is part of a series describing 4 Business Partnering Styles that can have an impact on you and your business. See a list of these articles and other resources at the end of this article.

Partnerships With Undefined Roles Will Stunt Your Growth

Misplaced Desire for Connection

People enter into Undefined Role business relationships under a number of circumstances. One is when they dive right in to the day-to-day demands and assume they will sort out the roles later—or sort them out over time. And often, they never get around to it. Others fall into an Undefined Role style because they have an underlying, often unconscious, desire to share everything. In the beginning stages of start-up this happens frequently and may feel both exciting and supportive as they discuss everything, sometimes ad nauseam. Over time, this need for connection proves to be inefficient and eventually keeps a business from achieving the growth they may or may not have targeted. This style may lead to placing value in interpersonal relationship satisfaction above and beyond business objectives. This can feel satisfying in what is called a “life style business” but it frequently doesn’t lead to successful growth.

Merging or Lack of Boundaries

Another version of owners with Undefined Roles is seen in people who come together unaware of what it means to have a healthy, mature relationship. Often this is seen in all their relationships—professionally as well as personally. These owners have few boundaries and little autonomy. They may not think independently and respond inter-dependently most of the time. It may appear as though they are working in sync, but they are really merged. They function like two halves of a whole versus two independent highly functioning people bringing all their expertise and creativity to the table. Decision-making is a lot of acquiescing or giving in that stems from having to feel connected instead of thoughtful choices for the sake of the business. When both individuals come together this way, growth inter-personally and in the business is difficult to achieve because they cannot think outside one another’s box. While this style is not found full blown very often, many owners exhibit aspects of this style in aspects of their relationship.


Breaking Up is Hard (but Maybe Healthier) To Do

Random events sometimes cause professionals to seek a more mature business relationship.

Otherwise one or both would have to consciously want to learn ways to relate so the business grows. There are owners who, over time, discover they are partnered with an associate who is merged with them. This power can be manipulated, it can also feel cloying or claustrophobic once awareness sets in. In the personal setting this discovery frequently leads to divorce. In business, this will eventually feel like a need to break out of the box—totally evaluating roles and responsibilities or ending a partnership.

Engaging the help of a business coach for entrepreneurs, a coach for business partners in trouble, can be beneficial in understanding the dynamic between you. While an undefined role relating style is difficult to change, gaining perspective on your part in the dynamic will benefit you in your entire life. And should the discomfort and learning lead to a break up having professional help will hopefully assist you both.


This article is part of a series describing 4 Business Partnering Styles that can have an impact on you and your business. Refer to the article published here  to get a broad overview of these approaches.

Pitfalls to Running a Successful Business Together as Business Partners

Then learn about the individual approaches in each of these articles:

Business Partners: The Dominant—Non-Dominant Relationship Style 1/4

Business Partnerships With Undefined Roles 2/4

Unilateral Decision-Making Relationship Style in Business Partnerships 3/4

The Big Picture Partner Relationship Style 4/4

Learn More to Evaluate What Style You Want

Learn more about each style here in the following articles. I’ve focused on each relationship style in depth so you can see the strengths and weaknesses and ways they might be impacting your business. From this it is easy to identify the style of relating you wish and to receive coaching to help achieve your goals.

Having partnership difficulties now or in negotiation with a potential partner? Don’t wait! Let’s get you on a better path  Contact me here.

Read about all 4 relationship styles now by DOWNLOADING the full paper:

For a case example of business partners successfully implementing the Big Picture approach, please read this article.

Please look around the website for more resources, contact us here, or email Dr. Jan directly  to schedule a conversation. Let’s discuss your partnering needs and I’ll share more about the mindset, tools, and skills of Big Picture Partnering can benefit you and you business, so you can have the great partnership that expresses your values and dreams, enriches your pocketbook, and your entire life!

Pitfalls to Running a Successful Business Together as Business Partners

To download both  White Papers for business partners, please go here.

Additional information for Couples, Dual Career Couples, and Couples in Business can be found here.

When you are ready, let’s talk! To discuss your partnership needs, contact me directly here.



Dr. Jan Hoistad