This is a column that I did not expect to write. But after close to five years, my brother and business partner, decided that the corporate struggle was not for him. As a highly-creative person, he found the snail's pace of company growth and the constraints of volume manufacturing, too stifling. Also, our philosophies on how the business should be run and what direction it should, or even could, take were very different. So now I have no one to blame but myself if things don't go right.
The most difficult part about the split is trying to separate business and family. The financial pressures, business problems and perceived injustices result in suppressed anger and resentment. Maintaining a businesslike approach while trying to salvage the family ties isn't easy. I think we may come out of it still speaking to each other. I certainly hope so.
There has been much written about family businesses and the potential for problems. Look very carefully before you leap and have all duties, expectations and plans in writing. Seek advice from people who know the partners. Their perspective could reveal potential problems before they become real problems. Communication is the key, but in many situations, it is the lack of communication that eventually causes the problem.
I have been divorced once and now have to dissolve a business relationship with a brother. They are very similar in the emotions they evoke. It has helped to have our third stockholder and board member act as spokesperson and buffer. He has done a great job working through the communication difficulties.
Growing a new business is tough for a lot of reasons. The additional pressures created by being in business with a family member only adds to the complexity. I would be interested in hearing from people who have made it work and from those who haven't.