Your business partner is also your spouse. You got married a decade ago, then you both quit your jobs and started a company together.
At the time, you were full of optimism and hope for the future. For the business, those goals came through. It flourished. You were soon earning far more than you had been in your old corporate job, and you were far happier.
The marriage, though, didn’t enjoy the same success. Now you’re splitting up and you want to know what it means for your company. Here are four key pieces of advice.
1. Plan ahead.
It may be too late to do this, and many couples skip this step. No one wants to ask their spouse of a few months what they’ll do with the company when they get divorced. It’s not romantic. If you’re going into business together, though, it pays tremendously to plan ahead. Have a plan in place; keep your business life separate from your married life.
If you didn’t, though, don’t worry. There are still steps you can take to make this go more smoothly.
2. Be honest about the valuation.
Before you can decide what to do — selling the business, keeping it, one partner buying the other out or something else entirely — you need to have an accurate picture of the worth. Be honest. People often cling to an inflated number because they love the business and they’re so close to it. Get accurate numbers so that all subsequent decisions are fair.
3. Consider working together.
This isn’t right for everyone, but it may save the company. If neither of you can afford to buy the other out directly, you may feel that you have to sell the company or shut it down and split up your assets. The end of your marriage doesn’t have to be the end of the company. Consider working together for a few years until one spouse can buy the other 50 percent of the company from the other spouse.
4. Keep a business perspective.
Check your emotions at the door. Maybe you’re mad at your spouse. You can’t stand the thought of cooperating with him or her every day, even before the divorce is finalized. That may be understandable, but it can be a toxic attitude for a company. Find ways to keep your emotional, romantic life separate from your business life. For example, you may want to delegate certain duties so you don’t have to work directly with your spouse, all while staying involved. Don’t throw away everything you’ve worked for just because you’re angry.
Divorcing a business partner is messy. It’s difficult. A ton is a stake. However, with the right mindset and the right goals, it is possible for you and the company to thrive.