Business Partnership Advice – Red Flags At The Beginning

“Deceit is the linchpin of conscienceless behavior.” ~Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door

So many people want to start a new business and dream of financial independence. Indeed, starting a business is a very good step to taking control of your own destiny, and while a business may fail, that is not a reason to give up. Rather, it’s an opportunity to learn and try to understand what went wrong, what mistakes were made, and perhaps even understand that one’s own expectations about the market for a product or service were not based on reality.

Often, we’re also faced with realizing that we do not have all the skills necessary to provide all of the services, so we look for others that may appear to have similar goals, values and ethics and that can provide the skills that we do not have, while we can provide skills and knowledge that they do not have.

This is often about as close as you can get to a perfect partnership arrangement. But not always. There are some red flags that you need to watch out for. This does not mean you shouldn’t be suspicious of everything or completely lack trust, but if you are investing a lot of your own hard earned money into something, if you don’t watch out for red flags at the beginning, and deal with them immediately, you could find yourself in a situation where you lose everything.

Of course, you may have legal recourse under such a situation, but sadly, our court systems in North America tend to work very slowly, and at the same time, legal costs can be astoundingly high – such that legal action is often not worth the time or effort.

The biggest red flag to watch out for from my experience is lying. When a potential or new partner you’ve begun business with shows signs of easily and without remorse, lying to you about a variety of things, run. The old adage, “three strikes and you’re out” does not apply here. It can be difficult, because you might want to try to understand why the person is lying to you, and during those conversations, especially if the person turns out to be a pathological liar, perhaps even psychopathic, they can trick you into feeling sorry for them, and will often make promises about “doing better,” “it won’t happen again…,” “I promise to get counseling…,” “I will make up for this..” or any other number of emotional triggers that may have you wanting to forgive them and offering you hope of being able to move on.

And for a time, perhaps a month or two, things will seemed to have improved, but during this time, your own efforts, your own investments will get deeper and deeper, and suddenly, there’s a new lie, or new crazy activity you might discover.

People who have these psychopathic tendencies can often come across to others as being responsible and even impressive. Indeed, they may have impressive skills in some areas. They are often quick to try to show them off.. and sometimes will even help others outside the business – this helps them to cover up their own lies within the business. To outsiders, the psychopathic liar appears to be a wonderful person – how on earth could such a person be so dishonest?

But then there will be other lies.. and they may even ask you to protect them… but in doing so, you are playing right into their hands, as the manipulate the truth.

They might even go so far as to lie about a pregnancy! Or a miscarriage! And beg you to not talk about what really happened… so you are emotionally stuck with trying to protect the person, believing you are doing something good.. but in the meantime, this person is now open to saying whatever they want.

They have an amazing ability to even turn others against you, while you made promises to them about helping and protecting them. Others will then help them, while you’re the one stuck carrying the bag.. the bag of financial losses, projects never completed, agreements not kept, while they come up with a boat load of excuses to outsiders, but you know that there really is no excuse; what happened was not your expectation or the expectation they lead you to believe and hope for.

They will even go so far as to make sure it’s pointed out that YOU needed THEM. Which, may be partially true (their skills were a big part of the business), but they will never point out that YOU helped them with rent money, sent money of your own to them to help them, took on their debt even, at the beginning. Noo.. none of those things will ever be mentioned by the other person, and it’s not your way to make that public, until it’s much much too late. They will never point out to others the things you have done to build the business, such as bringing in clients, some of whom might actually be acquaintances of yours before you start the business.

At first, you might believe many of their claims that they make, that impress you and cause you to believe that they have the life experience and skills you are hoping for in a business partner. Lies that are so believable, why would you doubt them? Lies like… “I grew up a Catholic, and then converted to Protestantism” is something you might hear from such a person and you’re impressed, even if  you don’t agree with their theology, but it shows an open minded person who thinks.

But then you find out their childhood theology was no such thing. What they have told you is just a mirage. And you’ll wonder, “Huh? What the heck?”

They may tell you grandiose stories about rock climbing adventures, or playing a mean Banjo in the Church worship group. They may tell you that they are separated from their spouse even… when they are not. But why would you not believe such things?

The more important question is, “Why on earth would someone lie about such things in the first place?”

After awhile, as you catch them in more lies, and confront them (especially the ones that are important to the business), they will gradually move from a demeanour of shedding fake tears to one of making you feel guilty for discovering the lie. Instead of remorse, they will display anger and insolent type of behaviors that you would expect from a rebellious 15 year old; not a grown adult.

Sometimes, they might even promise to stop lying, seek councelling, and they appear genuine, and they will relight the spark of hope in you. They will come to you with great ideas for the business, and for a short period of time, will give you renewed hope that you’ve crossed a barrier and perhaps… in the end… all will be well.

One one occasion, when a person was confronted with a very serious lie that also involved some very serious actions about an agreement with a client over money, the person did accept the idea of counseling – and even provided a name of a therapist. However, they then came up with excuses, “I’m not sure how to get there though as it’s out of town.” There were plenty of resources in town, though… it was all a stall tactic for them.

Don’t kid yourself. Unless a person like this is willing to undergo intense therapy, they will not stop their behaviour.

One behaviour to look out for is the “segmenting” of their life – they may get very close to you, but at the same time, will try to limit your time with others in their life. They do this as a protective mechanism which helps them maintain their lies. They will give you excuses about some of the things others might say to you, and their understanding but in the meantime, they are actually promoting those thoughts in others – and this segmentation aids them in doing so. They certainly do not want you and the others to all get together at the same time, and the possibility that a topic or subject comes up in discussion that they’ve told major boner lies about.

Often, you will ask, “Why did you lie about that?” or, “Why do you keep lying over and over about things, when it’s important to know the truth?” or “Why are you lying about the status of a project, when it’s important to know where we’re at, so we can adjust?

They won’t really have an answer for that. But they will use the project as an excuse to let others know just how “great” they are, even though they may not actually be spending much time on it. In fact, they could actually be spending time on other conflicts of interest for their own gain, using your resources, and the project you thought they were working on, as an excuse to appear busy, while doing other things.

When you get frustrated, they will use your frustration against you. You all of a sudden become “mean” or “unthinking” toward them.

Some other things that may happen with a person like this:

  • You might be looking at ways to increase your business, and in doing so, hire someone to take on some jobs they do, so the partners can work on bigger and better things. But instead, after a long time, you have nothing to show for this, so you decide that it’s really important to try to cut expenses – and when you do, they will complain about you and an additional work load (when they weren’t really working on the business with you in the first place during that time you hired or sub contracted out stuff).
  • You may purchase some product or service that is supposed to help them be more efficient, but instead of using it for the business purpose, use it for their own personal purposes, and when you see that it’s really a wasted expense, they will moan and complain about the idea of that service stop being paid for, blame it on you, while neglecting to tell others that they did not use it for it’s intended purpose in the first place.
  • They may pretend to be working in the best interests of the business, but you may later find out, perhaps years later, that they were spending enormous amounts of time on other things, maybe even earning an income using PayPal, or some other ways of hiding income – and when confronted, will try to downplay what they did. And yet, you will discover even more conflicts of interest and by this time, perhaps they have quite assisted in making sure your own personal funds that you put into the business are completely diminished and gone.
  • They will refuse to assist with normal and accepted business practices, sharing information or even documenting things –  possibly because they don’t want you to know what they are not really doing. Who knows? Maybe they want you to need them, even if it is financially hurting you – it gives them power over you while you continue to try to deal with their lies and the fall out from it. They always seem to be able to make you deal with the fallout and will never offer up apologies unless pressed to do so. And after being pressed to do so, the apologies are usually simply “lip service.”
  • When confronted with a lie, instead of admitting to the truth, they will seek to defend themselves with more lies, and often they don’t even see the irrationality of their lies. It just “makes sense” to them, at the time, in order to try to cover up their lies, and still somehow pretend they’ve told the truth.

There are many many more things that they will engage in, on a day to day basis, which often has the intended result of making you think they really are interested, they are sorry for their actions… but it’s all a sociopathic/psychopathic strategy. They really have no conscience. And it can be so very very frustrating as well as depressing, if you’re watching the very things you built, being torn away – by lies.

Which brings me back to where I discussed above, that you will often ask the “why” questions… “why are you lying about this?” etc.

The only answer to this is that they are psychopathic. It’s a hard word and a  hard diagnosis to accept. We often think of the psychopath as the crazy axe-murdering person, but there are psychopaths out there, who while they won’t show violent tendencies, show through their actions in other ways, a total lack of ability to understand remorse, to understand change, to understand values,

But because it is such a hard word to use to describe someone, and so often used to describe a person who does horrifying things physically, we tend to forget or put less emphasis on the horrifying emotional and financial damages the non-physical psychopath can cause.

YOU, on the other hand, KNOW you’re not perfect, you know:

  • There is always room for improvement.
  • You understand remorse when you did something wrong.
  • You understand that you can make mistakes and while it’s not good to beat yourself up over them, you understand the idea of trying to make up for them, and striving to improve.
  • You understand that honest communication is important, and try, over and over to reach that level.
  • You care – not just giving lip service to the word, but your actions show care, and to many people, it’s not just seen, but is known to be genuine. When you discover the psychopath has lied about a pregnancy, and then lied about a miscarriage, you will care. You will try to understand what you think they are feeling and provide empathy. You will talk and listen. You will help them. They then will turn it all around on you.

A psychopath does not get this. It is impossible for them without a great deal of therapy. They are simply not capable, but they are capable of doing a LOT of damage. And you may not realize the damage until it is too late.

So watch out for those early signs… especially of habitual lying without true remorse. While this article linked below is dealing mostly with romantic relationships (and indeed, you may have even had a romantic relationship with your psychopath business partner but had to end it but decided to try to continue and have hope in a business relationship), the concepts and information still apply to other relationships that include the psychopath in your life:

Pathological Lying: A Psychopathic Manipulation Tool

If you are considering a new business with a partner, and they show signs of not being able to deal with even everyday normal events without lying about them, RUN.

These types of people, no matter how sincere or how much you try to help them, could possibly drive you levels of frustration that you simply don’t know what to do, and when you do something to try to solve the problem, perhaps even out of frustration, trying to maybe contact one of their relatives for understanding of their behaviour, or to seek mediation, they will use that against YOU, even though it was your sincere purpose to try to make things right. And after awhile, you will end up resigning yourself to the fact the damage has been done; it’s not going to get better.  And your losses will not likely ever be recouped.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.