We’ve all heard the saying, “don’t mix business with pleasure.” Similar advice to keep in mind when forming a business partnership is, “don’t mix business and friendship,” or “don’t mix business and family.” Sometimes this counsel goes unheeded, with unpleasant or even disastrous results. Sometimes the advice is taken, but people and circumstances change, putting once-companionable business partners at odds.
Minor disputes can usually be resolved fairly easily if both parties are honest and willing to engage in healthy dialogue. But once business partners are at war, it becomes much more difficult to reach an amicable resolution.
With that in mind, here are some simple ways to nip a disagreement in the bud before it turns nasty, and some ways to handle one if it does get out of hand.
Put everything in writing…
Experts say the best way to keep a dispute between partners from turning into an all-out war is to be thorough when creating organizational documents, to begin with. For businesses involving partnerships, these written agreements should address immediate and future concerns including but not limited to individual roles, right, responsibilities, financial contributions, compensation, and provisions for ending the partnership. A qualified attorney can assess each situation and help you draft material that reflects and meets your individual needs.
In addition to the initial agreement, document significant decisions or agreements made over time that could potentially result in disagreements should also be documented in writing.
Take emotion out of the equation
Because business partners are often friends, relatives or close colleagues, feelings – both good and bad – are an intrinsic part of the picture. When disputes arise, it is important to find an experienced professional to help take emotion out of the picture.
In some cases, this may be an attorney who is well versed in contract or corporate law. He or she will act as a buffer between you and the other party while pursuing your interests through negotiation or litigation.
Depending on the situation, it could also be an experienced mediator or arbitrator who is familiar with partnership disputes. As “neutral parties” these skilled professionals help address key issues and resolve matters using less adversarial means.
Steps to take when a business partners decides to fight dirty
Unfortunately, there are extreme cases in which anger, greed, ego, and hurt feelings cause business partners to “fight dirty.” Such cases often involve sabotage, threats, psychological bullying, other forms of intimidation or harassment, and violence.
When this happens, it is important to keep a written record of everything that’s transpired. Don’t be afraid to alert the authorities. Avoid risky situations and confrontations. Don’t make any verbal or written agreements or concessions if you are under duress. Seek legal representation if need be. Seek legal protection afforded by law if necessary.
In a worst-case scenario, it may be necessary to take an “unhinged” business partner to court in order to legally end the relationship. If this is the case, having a qualified attorney in your corner is mandatory. The dedicated lawyers here at Jurado & Associates, P.A. will fight for you. To learn more, call (305) 921-0976 or email [email protected].