Financial Times Business Question 22/5/2010

Question

I recently started an online IT support company with my best friend of 12 years and. We did very well in our first year but, now we are into the second year, the business is struggling. So my partner has decided he wants to sell his part of the business to someone I do not know – and we have fallen out over it. I fear the breakdown in our relationship will further damage the business. I would rather not get lawyers involved at this stage and wonder how, while keeping in mind the legalities, we can come through this?

Answer

Your partner’s proposal presumably meets his needs – but what about yours?  Better to discuss what each of you wants and then consider a solution.

This could involve him selling out to other people, but could equally involve you both selling, or you buying him out, for example.  If this conversation is difficult, a neutral facilitator or mediator could help.

If bringing in a new partner meets your needs, you hold the cards and may have ideas on who to approach.  The best solution for everyone is likely to be a vibrant continuing business – not least for your ex-partner whose sale price may depend on future performance.  You may well need lawyers soon but their skills are best suited to documenting the arrangement you have actually chosen, rather than helping you explore the possible arrangements you could choose from.