How Do I Handle A Breakup With My Business Partner?

Not only are we surviving the pandemic…but my partner walked out!

Like 2020 has not been crazy enough right? All of us have had our individual experiences related to the pandemic and all the associated repercussions. Most of us have had other things to overcome during this time.

As an event design firm in Las Vegas, we have certainly experienced our share of challenges since March- but just to add to the fun, my partner left in May…leaving me to figure this all out on my own!

Lets face it, we all approach challenges differently and have to make the best decision for ourselves, our family and our community during this tumultuous time. I chose to fight it out, my partner decided to throw in the towel…only time will tell which of us made the right decision.

But I did learn some valuable lessons through this time and wanted to share – just in case you may find yourself facing a similar situation.

Here are five tactics I feel helped me and my company survive and thrive during this separation.

#1: Stay Calm

For me, a vocal, animated Italian-this was one of the hardest! Of course my first reaction was a freak out- OMG, how will I figure this out on my own…how could you do this to me...the team???

Then about 2 days in, I caught my breath and set my plan in place.

Don’t feed into the negativity that will certainly come your way- whether the negativity comes from the partner or others around you, it is tempting to get into the blame game to make yourself feel better. Stay calm, focus on the plan and rise above the rumors and the negativity.

#2: Focus on priorities

This takes some soul searching... what are the new priorities, how will you achieve your goals, what changes need to be made if any? I was lucky in a way that we were in the middle of shutdown so our business was nil and I had some time to work through these topics. I knew I had to focus on saving our business, saving our employees and moving forward. It took a couple weeks for me to clear my head enough to set the plan in place, but with focus I was able to create the path forward and share with my team so they felt confident about the future plans of the company and how they would be effected with the change in ownership.

#3: Lean on Professionals

I made the decision to handle the separation agreement on my own in lieu of hiring an attorney, time will tell if it was a good decision but with the shutdown, I honestly was not willing to part with so much cash to fight with my partner. It was time consuming, very stressful, and difficult but we worked it out. I chose to converse with many trusted professionals in my circle to work through the process of separation- my accountant, a genius business owner friend of mine from Australia, my CFO brother in Law, the advice of my favorite entrepreneur Mark Cuban, and many others helped guide me to find the final resolution. I certainly don’t advocate going without legal counsel, but if you can avoid the fees and get a fair agreement in place, it is worth the effort!

#4: Lead The Troops:

Not sure if this is the most important part but it is certainly close.

Our business is our people.

We have a roster of talented, creative professionals that drive our business, without them, Sktch is not Sktch. I knew I needed to lead them through this crisis with confidence and compassion. I decided to be very transparent with the team. How can they help if they don’t know the challenges we are facing??? I was 100% open with them about the partner separations, without any negative reference to my partner (no need to be petty!) and about our financial situation and what I was doing to keep the company moving forward. I put together an 8-month strategy and shared with them… these days I can't look to a whole year of planning- things are changing every moment !! I felt it was important for me to show them the path I see through the pandemic and the partnership separation.

#5: Not the end of the world

Wow! With all the pressures on us business owners this year, it is so easy to feel the world is crashing down on us. The only way I know to survive is to look at the cup always half full. With all the pressures of owning a business in Las Vegas in May, the last thing I wanted to handle was a partner separation but hey, that’s what happened. I decided we would weather this storm as we have others and look forward to a positive outcome in the future.

Losing a partner is not the end of the world…it’s the beginning of a whole new one! Change allows growth.

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