What is the best way to break off a partnership in a small business if I want to keep the clients that I have worked so hard to obtain?
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- First, talk to an attorney you can trust. The legal aspects around this kind of a thing are dangerous waters. For other readers of this answer, that's why you're supposed to have a buy-sell agreement that foresees breaking this partnership up, before you get involved. You have to be careful.
- Partners should be paid salary for what they work and share in profits only if there are profits. Your compensation structure seems way off. You should take a fair share of the jobs you sell and fulfill way before it becomes profits. Pay yourself fairly.
- Your clients will want to go with you if you've worked hard to win their business. They don't want your partner unless she's there, working. Your accumulated work will help you a whole lot. Just make sure you get good legal advice about how to avoid the pitfalls.