How to Exit a Business Partnership Gracefully

By | June 3, 2011

In an ideal world, every business partnership we enter would be a ticket to earning money. Everyone would enjoy each other’s company, everyone would contribute work toward the common good, and we would spend weekends at the yacht club sipping mojito’s.Of course, we don’t live in the ideal world – after all, not every one of us owns a yacht. But this is obviously true in the world of business relationships. Sometimes business relationships will make sense, work well, and earn each party plenty of money. But sometimes, things just go sour. A business partner might not work hard, might violate some rules, or might even do things that put your company at risk. When you’ve decided that you’ve had enough and want to exit the business partnership, that’s when you need to make sure that you do it gracefully.

Why focus on doing it gracefully? Because simply exiting a partnership is not enough.  Maybe your partner will see your exit as abandonment and take action to ensure that you’re punished for it. There are a number of ugly scenarios that can come about as a result of a bad exit – and you need to avoid these things. How do you do it? By preventing them from ever happening in the first place.  So let’s look at some tips to making sure you can exit your business partnership gracefully, cut your losses, and move on with improving your life in the future.

Before You Begin

Before you even alert your partner(s) of your intention to exit, it’s generally a good idea to speak to a professional or simply someone who can offer advice on how to exit painlessly. It’s not your duty to inform your partners of every action you take, and you can use the advice that this professional offers you to break the news about your leaving the partnership in the most suitable way possible.

It’s important to remember that these are people you’re working with. People have emotions and egos – they can be offended and they can feel hurt. Doing your best to remain humble in the face of these emotions will be important. So before you begin exiting a business relationship, make sure that you remember to focus on remaining humble.

Why humility? Isn’t that more of a spiritual virtue than a business skill? Well, you’d be surprised at how far humility can get you when you’re dealing with other people. Making sure not to step on anyone’s toes when you exit will be crucial to exiting on good terms. If you plan to exit a business relationship by emailing everyone and saying “So long, suckers!” you just motivated them to disdain you now and for a long time. That’s not how to do it.

It’s also important to wrap up any potential legal or tax issues before you exit a business. This way, you can avoid being vulnerable to someone. For example, if one partner knows about your tax issues and you tell them you’re exiting, then you give them a chance to hit you where it hurts. Don’t do that – make sure you can exit without legal entanglements before you announce your intentions.

Exiting with Full Legality

Exiting legally and securely is important to protect you – because, let’s face it, sometimes your business associates will be offended that you left no matter what you do. So if you can exit with full legal confidence, there’s not much that someone else can do to you: it’s your decision and that’s that.

But exiting with full legality also means that your exit itself will have to be legal. You can’t exit a business relationship by violating a contract, for example. That will just introduce further legal entanglements.

And what if the only way for you to exit a business relationship is to get out of a contract – and you know the other person who’s signed the contract won’t want you to do that? You have to open up negotiations and make your intentions known. You should also have your lawyer give the contract a once-over to see if you can have the contract voided in some way.  Again, seeking professional opinions can really do a lot to make sure that you exit with grace.

Leaving on Good Terms

As we’ve stated, sometimes it can be difficult to leave a business relationship on good terms. Maybe the business tanked and as a result, you and your friend are no longer friends. Instead, you feel like rivals. This can obviously make things difficult, which is why you’ll want to focus on strong interactions with your business partner as you depart.

For example, it can be tempting to pull a “power move” on them, leave them with little recourse, and generally hurt them in some way. Avoid this. There’s no way to gracefully exit a business relationship if you’re still letting your vindictiveness determine how you behave. Instead, let a sense of humility determine how you behave. Let them have the last word. Let them feel like they’ve won. You’ll end up winning in the long run because you’re the one who’s able to move on from the relationship!

If you can be stronger than your own ego, then you can see the benefits of the tips contained in this article. You can see how it will be important to focus on a graceful exit at the expense of your own ego – after all, if your goal is a graceful exit, who cares whether or not you leave the business relationship feeling personally validated?

Make the graceful exit your priority and you’ll be surprised at just how graceful it can be. If you still feel vindictive, keep those opinions to yourself. As they say, the best revenge is a life well-lived. So use this opportunity of exiting a bad relationship gracefully to propel you forward, cutting your losses so you can move on with dignity. Trust us – you’ll be glad you did.

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