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What to do when your business partnership is falling apart

When you started your business with your partner long ago, you probably pictured your partnership going on forever. What happens when "happily ever after" with your business partner isn't in the cards?

If serious cracks in your relationship have occurred, it's time to take action. Here are the things you need to do:

1. Open a line of communication.

This is particularly important if you feel like there's some unspoken tension or problems lurking "beneath the surface" of your relationship. You need to open a channel for a real conversation so that you can try to clear the air and resolve the conflict without more drastic action. Remember to keep things positive during this encounter and stress that you want to improve the dynamic and communication you have for the future.

2. Consider a mediator.

If your relationship has already soured, you may worry about your ability -- or your partner's -- to stay professional and reasonable. If you have serious concerns, it might be worthwhile to hire a mediator to help you through the negotiations with your partner.

3. Get some practical advice.

You can't negotiate from a position of strength if you don't know what your options actually are. Consider a consultation with a business attorney to find out what kind of leverage you have -- and what kind of exit plan you might need. If you decide to dissolve the partnership, you won't be exiting blind.

4. Try for an amicable breakup.

When a business partnership ends, it's much like a divorce. You start with your ideal outcome in mind -- but you need to leave plenty of room in your mind for negotiation. Try to find a neutral, calm atmosphere to give your partner the bad news and have some suggestions in mind for how you want the separation agreement to read.

Breaks are hard -- whether they're strictly personal or combined with your business. However, you'll get through this and soon be on to a new phase in your life.

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