I have recently encountered a few situations where partners in a business do not agree on the current plan for the company, with one partner(s) is ready to sell while the other(s) is not. This is often a situation unanticipated by entrepreneurs when they decide to become partners in a business. This is not surprising. After all, the focus at the time of the partnership is usually the start of the business rather than its potential or eventual conclusion. Thus, there is rarely a conversation about the end game — the exit when one or all owners are ready to retire or move on to the next start of their career.
A business partnership where owners have equal stake in the company can lead to a plethora of problems from disagreements in operations to exit strategies. Whether you're just starting out or already functioning as a super team, it's never too early to discuss the "what ifs" for future decisions. But wait too long and it can't be too late!
Mike Gillette is a friend, colleague, and a lawyer and shareholder at Polsinelli (firstname.lastname@example.org) who has helped many of my sellers transact. I asked him to share some insight from a legal perspective into how co-owners of a business should address issues that develop around disagreement about the future for the company. The following section summarizes his thoughts.