My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s — Oscar Wilde
Divorce transcends the world of the personal and often intrudes on the business world. The concept of business divorce is used in our field because the split from a business partner can be just as intense and emotional and financially draining as in matrimonial law. Whether you went in to business with a relative, friend, stranger or spouse, here are three signs that the honeymoon may be over.
Even though you have joint ownership, the partner is starting to act like the owner. If this dynamic works out well for you, then proceed. I’ve seen this many times, though, and most people who have ascended to co-ownership don’t want to be nagged by someone who is supposed to be an equal. You are accountable to each other, but that is where it should end. For example, a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has to set budgets for other departments, but that should not induce a power-trip if someone’s been spending too freely. There’s a way to gently remind a partner of just that — that certain spending is done for the good of the business and is fueling operations. If your partner cannot keep him/herself in check afterward, it’s a tell-tale sign of someone who may be a little too power happy.
Your partner believes he/she has more of a stake in the company than what was agreed to. This can go hand-in-hand with number one. Depending on how you have divided the shares for the ownership stake, if someone starts to throw their weight around, politely remind who in fact is the majority holder. The proof — your contract — should be a printed copy in your desk drawer. You can make a joke out of it, sure, but when necessary, pull it out. It’s probably the one time I’d encourage you to expose yourself in the workplace. Every part owner should have a hard copy in a desk drawer. And that is why print will never fully go away.
The toxic ‘tude
A partner or owner has the ability to singlehandedly change the morale of the company — for better or worse. When it’s the latter, he/she might be able to sway things with an abusive attitude or even getting too close and personal with an employee. This is not something that you can observe or judge in a day. This happens over time — so don’t jump to conclusions. However, if the seasons change but your partner’s affect hasn’t, it might be time to address the issue.
If that doesn’t go well, contact Brinen & Associates and we’ll see how amicably — or not — we can split you up. I’ll be exploring this topic further next week. Feel free to leave your suggestions or anecdotes in our comments.