WWYD Goal — Answers: (Back to the question)
1. Advise them to soldier on and give it a shot. Start having meetings and develop a business plan or prototype, and use that experience to make a more informed decision.
This is a rookie mistake. Papering over deep strategic differences or unknowns is a bad way to start a serious negotiation. Both sides seem far apart, but the facts are that neither side has done much rigorous goal analysis. If Al and Bob are both willing to approach their first set of meetings to see if there is the basis for a real partnership, then they may be able to work together. But if they just start slapping together a business plan, this potential partnership is going to end up causing real conflict.
2. Walk away. The differences are too wide.
Depending on the personalities involved, this might be the best course. As it stands now, Al is looking for a risk-free situation and planning to stay at his present job forever — even though he lives in mortal terror of a being fired. Bob is looking for an employee that he doesn’t have to pay. Both men have to reassess their risk-reward profiles and make more realistic plans.
3. Align goals. Give them a strict time limit
This is the answer — with a twist. Carol doesn’t want to get sucked into an open ended drama between her two friends, so she gives them a very SMART challenge.
Specific — sign off on a Memorandum of Understanding and job descriptions for each of the principles.
Measurable — 3 pages that explain what the company will do, how it will make money, and what each partner will contribute to day-to-day operations.
Actionable — Upon completion, each partner will invest $2,500 to investigate market potential.
Realistic — If they can decide on goals and roles, then they should start developing a business plan. If they can’t figure out what they want to do, then this isn’t a viable partnership.
Timed — Carol gives them 1 week to deliver a brief set of documents. 1 week is long enough to decide on where they agree, but short enough that they have to commit or walk away.