There Must Be 50 Ways to Leave Your Partners

Let me tell you about two different groups that went into business together: group one—3 College Buddies, group two—3 Neighborhood Friends.

Among the College Buddies, there were no agreements. The business relationship flourished, and there was no reason for them to keep detailed records. Why should they? They were buddies! Their various enterprises either flourished (as did their bank accounts) or dissolved, and there was more than enough activity for any of them to be worrying about the details. Meanwhile, among the second group of Neighborhood Friends, there were agreements and disagreements, from the get go.

Eventually, the relationships in both groups became strained. In both groups, there became an alliance of two against one. In College Buddies, it was the one who felt he was owed more than the other two. Despite the disagreement, they had been together for a long time and eventually, when their final enterprise was sold, they figured they would settle up. Regrettably, it was many years later when the settling came due. The trust that was their foundation and that had guided them for years had eroded. The issues became personal.

Back to our second group, the Neighborhood Friends, one friend thought he could run the business more effectively than the other two. The other two felt the business would flourish regardless of the first friend’s involvement. It became an argument over business acumen and leadership theories.

K&G became involved in both the College Buddies and Neighborhood Friends only after litigation was filed. K&G represented the “two” against the “one.” Once litigation begins, it takes on a life on its own. It is like a fast moving train. It takes a lot of energy to get it started, but once it gets going, it’s difficult to stop it. Being a business advisor, as well as a litigator, it is my job at K&G to try to stop that train, ideally, before it builds momentum.

How does one man stop a train? The answer: I start at the end of the story, and then slowly go back to the beginning. I focus on uncovering the true dynamics of the litigation:

  • If it is purely a business dispute, it becomes a simple cost-benefit analysis as to the least expensive way for the parties to resolve the issue.
  • If it is a personal dispute, it is really about the “principle” of the disagreement. In 99% of the cases I have seen, it requires a judge to settle the dispute and to take the emotion out of the case.
  • If it is a blend of personal and business issues, then it becomes much more complicated and costly for all. I extend a supportive hand (and sometimes a box of tissues) to guide my client through what will surely be a process of reconciling and tough decision making.

Until this exercise is concluded, I cannot truly and effectively advise my client.

For the College Buddies, the relationship was 100% personal and not about the money. These successful business people could easily afford to “settle” with one another. The case had to be tried because neither side would let go of the fight. Once this strategy was in place, then the train moved smoothly with a positive result for my clients. My clients toasted one another over a beer and then moved on to ponder their futures together.

For the Neighborhood Friends, it was purely business. The litigation strategy could be altered to increase the pace of the train, which would only mean more costs and force a settlement by the one. So, that is what we did. My clients settled the case within weeks. They celebrated with a nice back yard barbeque and discussed their various theories on lawn maintenance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>