“Friends don’t necessarily make good business or creative partners.”
-Attributed to Joseph Barbera, who created many great cartoons with his friend William Hanna
Creating art with someone you love, someone you’re intimate with, can be an incredible experience. When love disappears from a relationship you break up; if you’re married you get a divorce. But what happens when you fall out of love with your creative or business partner?
This is not an issue I particularly enjoy discussing with clients, but it is a discussion that nonetheless must be had. Mixing business and pleasure creates the potential for the partnership to end in catastrophe or stalemate or both.
When you are in the throes of romance, thinking about a breakup or divorce is probably the last thing on your mind. And so, when a couple (or two friends, etc.) comes to me for legal assistance with their project, it is my responsibilty to ask the question, “what do you want to happen to the business (or project) if you are no longer in a relationship?”
I don’t mind being the bad guy. I don’t mind being the one asking awkward questions and making contingency plans for an event that my clients hope and believe will never happen. That is my job.
What clients should understand about mixing business and love
Many marriages begin with a prenuptial agreement that provides for the distribution of property upon divorce. Business partnerships that also have a romantic component should similarly begin with a well-conceived plan for splitting the business, royalties, existing projects, and intellectual property in the event of a falling out.
Ideally, a business relationship should be able to transcend a breakup, allowing the couple to continue working together and building a thriving business.
If you are in business with a significant other, family member, or friend, ask your attorney to discuss with you the potnetial pitfalls of mixing business and pleasure. If you are prepared with a plan for dividing or sharing the business and your joint intellectual property, you can prevent your joint venture from failing just by falling out of love with your business partner.