How to Break Up with a Business Partner (And Still Be Friends)

Throughout my career, I’ve had to go through many business break-ups. I had to break-up with one business partner, who was a family member, twice in six years. And this is someone I see regularly at family functions. The first time, we’d started a business together and the second time, we merged an existing business. I’ve also partnered with two friends, one in starting a business together and the other in a business she started. And then, of course, there’s my husband, who I’ve never had to break-up with—but I have allowed him to move on and pursue his own interests outside of my business, without getting upset.

Needless to say, I’m pretty much an expert at handling a break-up with a business partner and still keeping a healthy relationship post-business partnership.

So grab a cup a tea (did you know tea is a symbol of friendship?), and I’ll to share with you some tips I’ve learned throughout my business break-ups that have helped things go smoothly and amicably for all parties involved. I hope these will help you too!

Agree to remain friends

Before you go into business together, agree to remain friends, no matter what the outcome is. I did this once. We wrote up a “let’s stay friends” clause and signed an official agreement (see next point). We both reflected on this clause when we came to parting ways and it helped to remind us why we wanted to start the business in the first place (because we liked each other once!)

Make a written agreement

Put down exactly what you want your partnership to look like in writing. Let both people add their ideas and make sure you agree on the nature of your partnership before it even begins. This is something you can include in, or have in addition to, a business contract. Make sure both parties sign, so you have written agreement that you’re both on the same page from the start.

Be as kind, generous and reasonable as possible

It’s inevitable that some tense feelings may arise as you part ways. Remember to try to be as kind, generous and reasonable as possible. This will make everything so much easier and make the entire process less stressful all-around. Try to split any costs that come up with dissolving the partnership. Also, always think before you act. Don’t get swept up in the heat of the moment.

Define the desired outcomes

When you decide to split, sit down and decide on what each of you want out of parting ways. Will you completely dissolve the business? How will you split up everything? What do you each want to walk away with? This really helps you create a plan for moving forward. Once you know the outcomes you want to achieve, come up with an exit plan that works for both of you.

Practice the art of forgiveness

I’ve used the ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono as a powerful spiritual practice. It’s something I learned to clear blame, shame, guilt, pride, fear, and punishing. Best of all, it’s simple. Picture your partner and then say the words: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.” (And repeat the process until you truly feel that you mean your words).

Honesty is key

No matter what, remember that honesty is key. Even when it’s uncomfortable, it’s better to be open and honest about everything than to cover anything up. Total transparency will make the business break-up easier in the long run—and help set a foundation for your new relationship moving forward.

Get legal advice

It can be really helpful to get the opinions of an attorney as you’re splitting assets and dissolving your business partnership. See what legal advice they have to offer and make sure that both you and your soon-to-be-former business partner are protected throughout the process of splitting up.