How to Get Rid of a Partner

I spend far too much time talking to people who can’t stop talking about their partners, and I don’t mean in a loving manner. It’s not uncommon for a couple of like-minded people to create what they hope is a synergistic relationship, or for two people to co-author a book or create a model which creates business opportunities for them.

Unfortunately, it’s also not uncommon for there to be much less synergy than met the eye, and/or personality and behavioral problems which doom the partnership from every achieving success.

The answer to this is not therapy, not turning the other cheek, and not hiring a consultant yourselves. The answer is to jettison the partner. This can sometimes be done agreeably, and often must be done ruthlessly. Don’t worry–any harm done is far less than the harm a lousy partnership is doing to you at the time.

The worst part is that many professionals feel guilty about ending the relationship. In one instance, a consultant’s co-author had intimidated him into seeking a training outlet for the book and accepting him as a partner in the consulting work that had never, pre-book, included him. All of this was the consultant’s own fault, since he owed his co-author nothing more than a sharing of the royalties and a sharing of the leads with an agreement on who would follow-up on what. Co-authoring a book does not join you at the hip.

The best preventive advice I can give is not to enter a partnership without a long “courtship” period. And don’t feel that a lengthy contract is the answer. If you need a 30-page brief from an attorney then you probably don’t trust each other enough to form a decent relationship.

But if you have gotten yourself into one that has become dysfunctional, then think about this:

  1. Confront you partner with the fact that you don’t feel the partnership is working. There is no “perfect time,” so just do it, but always in person.
  2. Use objective evidence. Don’t say that “You don’t seem to respect my work,” but cite “You promise to put in adequate preparation time, buy you are unable to lead the group through our strategy model without my help.”
  3. Provide options for dissolving. Don’t provide a fait accompli, but rather a choice: end it now, at year-end, after the current project, etc. Let your partner believe that he or she has some choice in the matter.
  4. Do not waver. Tell your partner that it’s got to end and it’s just a matter of how. Don’t be talked out of it.
  5. Be selfish. This isn’t about your partner, it’s about you and your family. Your partner will be just fine. Do not feel guilty. Feel relieved.

Finally, put your separation agreement in writing with a lawyer’s help. You’ll have the obvious (furniture, leases, money in the bank) and the less obvious (future leads, future royalties, a public statement) to contend with.

Don’t suffer through a lousy partnership. These “divorces” have no social stigma.