I want to sell our business, but my partner doesn't--what should I do?
I'm co-owner of a business with my friend and have been approached by a wealthy group who wants ownership. My other partner is not interested and has put more time and money into the company than I have (for now), but does not share my vision. I can legally decrease his ownership but it may affect our friendship. The group will not sign on unless I decrease his ownership. Is there a way I can be fair here? He does not want money (because of the business potential he wants to keep his ownership). I originally partnered with him due to our friendship and his capital, however capital is no longer a problem and his skills are easily replaced by an employee. The group wants me to continue as primary owner for my skills and prior experience. This group has the resources and ability to make my company a huge success. Without them, I think it will take many years or more to reach that point, if ever -- any suggestions?
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- Prepare. Make some notes about the situation and your feelings. Write about where you are, where you want to be, and how you might get there.
- Call a meeting. Let your partner know that the purpose of the meeting is to brainstorm and find a solution that works for both of you.
- Set the stage. Sit down at a time when you are both clear headed and able to give this important conversation the time and energy it deserves.
- Speak from the heart. Focus on finding a solution that works for both of you. This is collaboration.
- Listen, listen, listen. Listen as if you are an outside observer with no prior knowledge of the situation. Twenty years in the mediation business has taught me that there are at least two sides to every story. You may be very surprised when you hear the rest of the story.
- Give yourselves time to think, process the information, and cool down.
- Don't leave the issue unresolved. An agreement to disagree is resolution. Leaving the situation open sets you up for future fights.
- If all else fails, hire a professional to help you. Often an outside opinion sheds light on your blind spots and helps reach agreement. Consider bringing in a mediator.