You're part of a business partnership and you want to end it. Simple, right? Just divide the assets with your partner or partners and go your merry way, you think. Not so fast. How you end the partnership, and how you determine who gets which assets and who can do business with your current clients, depends on the answers to several key questions:
- Do you have an informal relationship where you conduct business without any written agreements?
- Is your business a corporation?
- Do you have a pre-existing document detailing how you'll divide the business if one partner wants to leave?
- Do all partners want to end the relationship, or just one?
Ending a partnership that has no written agreement is like divorcingIf you haven't incorporated your partnership and don't have a written agreement with your business partner, your breakup will be treated like a divorce in the courts. One common way things are split is to compensate each partner for what he contributed.
Create a buy-sell or buy-out documentWhether you're just starting your business or you've worked with your partners for some time, it always makes sense to write up a buy-sell agreement that spells out how to end a partnership.
Craft a partnership agreementEven if your business has been around for years, it makes sense to memorialize the relationship with your partner or partners through a partnership agreement. It can spell out everything from who can sign documents to how to deal with a partner's major illness to how to break up the firm.
Don't try to dissolve a business relationship without a lawyerEven if the breakup plan espoused by your business associate seems perfect, it makes sense to run it by a lawyer with expertise in ending business partnerships.
Hire an outside, independent firm to value your businessThere may be a dispute between you and your partner over the value of the firm and each partner's share. Consider hiring an outside firm to put a value on your business.
It's complicated when you want to end the relationship, but your partner doesn'tHow you end a relationship when your business partner doesn't depends on several variables, including how your state treats involuntary breakups.
If ending means selling the business, do it the right wayDon't let breakup issues divert you from maximizing the money you get for your business if you have to sell when the partnership ends.
Husband-wife business partnerships have unique pitfallsWhen a husband and wife who are business partners divorce, there can be particularly difficult legal problems for the company.
- Look out for the "Seven C's" , the warning signs that your partnership may be about to end: (1) communications breakdown, (2) competitive, not complementary, interaction, (3) conflict becoming the norm, (4) cumulative money problems, (5) control issues, (6) changing vision and (7) crisis management impaired by personal issues.