When Should You Walk Away from a Business Partnership?

You started a business with a friend. Maybe even a couple of friends. It seemed like every night you all were brainstorming and hustling and dreaming.

But now, things are different. You’re not sure you can stay in the company anymore—and you helped build it!

It isn’t the business that’s driving you bonkers—it’s the business partners.

This is specifically written for the person who started a business with some friends and wants to know, “Should I leave the company I helped build?”

You should leave or dissolve the company if:

1. Your close friends and family are very worried about you.

We can’t hide stress from those who know us well. If the business is depleting you financially, physically, and mentally, your close friends and family will pick up on it.

When they come to you and say something like, “I want your business to succeed, but I’m worried about you. You seem fatigued and stressed,” then they aren’t being negative — they’re trying to help you.

Maybe this one reason isn’t enough to make you quit, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind. Consider it a red flag: your friends and family see what you’re trying to ignore.

2. The business atmosphere turns toxic.

Did you think a toxic work environment was only for the typical 9–to–5 corporations?

If your business partner brings absolutely nothing to the table except for pessimism, then he’s creating a toxic work atmosphere. Think of your business like a plant: it needs to grow in the best environment possible to live the longest. If you have nothing but a dark cloud over your plant, then it’s going to wilt and die.

Ask yourself:

  • How is the leadership in the business?
  • Do the partners within the business act professionally?
  • Do the partners support me and my ideas?
  • Am I prevented from growing as a CEO/COO/CFO?
  • Is my gut telling me something isn’t right?
  • Am I being respected within the company?

3. The business partner does not understand his or her position and takes control over yours.

Let’s pretend in this scenario that you act as the CEO. You’re the ringleader, so to speak. If one business partner is the CFO, then he has no business acting as a CEO and taking control of your position. The CFO handles the finances; he is not el presidente.

Before you ever, ever start a business with other people — yes, even your BFFs — all of the business partners need to understand their positions. Don’t assume the COO understands her position.

So what do you do if the CFO tries to take over your job as the CEO? Obviously, talk to her in a kind, professional manner. Try to remind her of that meeting you all had at the very beginning, where you discussed the various roles of each team member.

If that doesn’t work and the problem still persists, then you (as the CEO) need to make the decision to let her go. If you’re so close to this person that you can’t imagine doing that, then you probably need to walk away. Notice I said probably — it’s not always so easy. It might take some time and soul-searching to decide how to handle this, but don’t take too long.

4. Your health starts failing.

Are you sick all the time? Do you ever get any sleep? Are you so moody that you lash out at those you love? Have you ever cried because you can’t handle the toxic work environment?

God only gave us one body; we don’t get another one. Being sick all the time or going without sleep may not seem like a big deal right now, especially if you’re young, but it catches up to you very quickly and makes it impossible to manage a successful business.

5. You’re throwing out money with no ROI.

For the first business I owned, I agreed to take out a loan of $3,500. Now, to some people, that’s nothing. Some entrepreneurs loan out hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, it was still a substantial amount to me. I did not want to take out a loan — I was in the middle of the Dave Ramsey program at the time. But I consented.

First mistake: I said yes under pressure to something I knew wasn’t right for the company. If you’re doing this all the time in the business, then that’s a huge red flag.

Loaning out money turned out to be a monstrous disaster. Do not start racking up debt. Just don’t do it. Start out your company with a budget!

If your startup is throwing out money with no ROI, then have a team meeting and get back on track. If the business partners shut you down, then they do not understand how to run a business. It’s time to leave.

6. The business partner is not a hustler.

If your business partner doesn’t want to hustle, hustle, hustle and make it happen, as my mom says, then they need to either be trained or get the boot.

A successful company solely relies on the tenacity of the entrepreneur. It cannot succeed if the whole team is snoozing, waiting for a customer. You have to go out there and get them.

Are you the only one in the whole team doing all the work? If you’re not sure, keep a running list of what you do for the business for a week or two, and compare it to what your business partner(s) is doing. Are you carrying 90% of the load, and he’s carrying 10%? That’s not a team effort.

7. You’re told no for everything.

You present an idea, and the business partner says no without considering it. In fact, it seems like no matter what the topic is — marketing, advertising, product design, finances — you get hit with a no.

What happens when you:

  • Suggest an idea for advertising?
  • Lay out a plan for increasing sales?
  • Request an updated or more professional design?
  • Ask for a tighter budget?
  • Recommend a professional in a certain field?
  • Inquire about the finances?

Are you met with a “No!” every time? That could be the source for the problem we discussed in #1. If this is happening to you, it might be time to say yes to different partners or go out on your own.

If you started a company with some friends and decided to leave or dissolve it, what advice do you have for those who are dealing with this issue? What did I miss?

An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. Her blog posts have been featured on popular websites like The Book Designer and Positive Writer. She is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist and her novel-in-progress, The Suicide Tree. She lives in Oklahoma with her two dogs, Chanel and Wednesday.

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Editor. Author. Marketer. The 10 Commandments of Author Branding | The Suicide Tree | The Rotting | Pre-Publishing Checklist. https://linktr.ee/shaylaleeraquel

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Shayla Raquel

Shayla Raquel

Editor. Author. Marketer. The 10 Commandments of Author Branding | The Suicide Tree | The Rotting | Pre-Publishing Checklist. https://linktr.ee/shaylaleeraquel

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