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Left in the Lurch?

How one company moved past a partner's sudden departure

This story appears in the May 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Aaron Keller and his business partner Brian Aducci were working hard to grow and establish Capsule, the marketing and design firm they founded in 1999 with a third partner. But when their partner left 18 months into startup, the pair had to scramble to keep their business intact. Luckily, they had a board of advisors to help them navigate these murky waters. "It happened really quickly--basically, over a weekend," remembers Keller. "And certain employees and clients were recruited away, so we went into high-action mode. We created a war room and got to work on saving every client and every employee we could."

Disaster-type triage is exactly what experts suggest setting up to deal with this situation. "When a partner leaves, you've got to first sit down and realize what the extent of the damage is," says Lea A. Strickland, founder, president and CEO of FOCUS Resources, a business consulting firm specializing in entrepreneurial issues and strategy in Cary, North Carolina. One of your first tasks is eliminating that person's access to bank accounts, your physical premises and company assets, including specialty equipment--an exiting partner with malicious intentions could damage these critical business elements.

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