Last Saturday night, my husband and I were looking for something to watch on TV, when we came across “True Life” on MTV.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, MTV sends a camera crew to follow young people and record their daily lives to see how they deal with the topic of the show.  In this case, the topic was “I’m a Newlywed”.  They followed two couples who weren’t just getting married.  They had not even lived together prior to marriage.    You can only imagine the revelations that came to light after the “I dos” were said, especially for one couple.

This particular couple had a 4 year, long distance relationship.  In fact, it seemed like most of their courtship had occurred over the phone.   After the wedding, the couple moved to Indiana where the husband lived.  The bride, from Virginia, had never even seen his house.  What ensued were revelations about cleanliness, eating habits, financial responsibility, and the like.  More than once the bride said with a hint of resignation, “I’m in it for life” while staring thoughtfully at her wedding band. 

There is something to be said for knowing the “real” person that will be your future spouse, or for our purposes, business “partner”.   Can you ever know the “real” person at the beginning of any relationship?  It takes time to learn the “truth” about another person both in marriage and in business.  Any business relationship resembles a marriage.  At the beginning, things are rosy and everything is great, but over time, interesting quirks and bad habits start to appear.  “Hmmm,” you might say to yourself, “who is this person?”  Hopefully, you can adapt to the “new and improved” partner, but sometimes you wake up and say “Am I reallystuck with this person for life?”  (Don’t be surprised if your partner asks the same questions about you!)

Like marriages, some business relationships don’t last forever.  One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and maybe even end a business relationship on a positive note is to discuss and maybe even agree on what the end will look like before you even begin.  I know your probably thinking, why would I want to discuss what could go wrong?  Wouldn’t that make my future business partner want to run for the hills?  Maybe and maybe not.  Wouldn’t you want to know that the person you are about to do business with doesn’t have the stomach to have the tough discussions or just wants to brush aside the difficult subjects?  I would.  What else can be gained by having such a discussion?  Well, maybe you come up with a mutually beneficial exit strategy that avoids a nasty law suit.  Maybe you decide that you leave the relationship with some money or your clients.  Maybe you decide to divide the debt incurred by the business venture evenly.  No one really wants to discuss what could go wrong during the honeymoon phase, but there are some real benefits to having that discussion.

Here are some other recent blog posts that shed some more light on the subject.

Just so you know, my husband and I ended the night watching Up!, the delightful Pixar film about an infinite partnership filled with ups, downs, and little bit of adventure thrown in.