I'm not going to ask you to raise your hand if you're a female entrepreneur who's thought about leaving their husband, and you're staying because you're worried about whether it'll cost you your business. Who would blame you? You've worked damned hard to build that business. It might be yours alone, or you and your husband may be business partners, but your deepest fear is that it's all going to disappear.
You've probably heard a hundred horror stories from friends and clients who experienced this exact thing. But before you break out into a sweat, read on, I'm here to tell you, it doesn't have to be that way.
If you're seriously thinking about divorce, then it's fair to say that, for whatever reason, you are unhappy. Imagine if you were no longer unhappy. Imagine a time when all this is behind you and you feel like you again. Not sad, worried, upset or angry. Not frustrated, confused and tired. Imagine what would be possible for you and your business then?!
Staying in an unhappy relationship is costing you in your business, even if you're not aware of it. Even if it's not affecting the bottom line... yet. But it will if you stay unhappy. So what can you do to ensure that saying sayonara to your husband doesn't mean saying adios to your business too?
1. MAKE A PLAN
You have a business plan right? Think like a business woman, behave like a business woman. Divorce is a process. Think of it as the opposite of a merger, you're selling off part of your company, the company that is you and your assets. Whether you live in the UK, the States or Hong Kong, get familiar with the divorce process you'll be using. Do this before you seek legal advice. Get clear about how the whole thing works. Being clear about what will happen will stand you in good stead.
Do your due diligence. You wouldn't enter into a business deal without doing your due diligence now would you? Begin to find out what your assets really are. Knowing your numbers is absolutely crucial. Having all your paperwork in order is too. Getting this sorted before you go to your lawyer will save you from feeling under pressure. Remember that you need to cover your personal as well as your business affairs. Carrie Smith, author of the Careful Cents blog article Getting a Divorce When You're Self-Employed; 5 Financial Steps to Take, details the kinds of things that you need to think about. The more detailed and organized you are, the better. Are your company accounts up to date? Are the accounts reconciled? These things matter so get them sorted now.
2. START WITH THE END IN MIND
Only when you have your paperwork together, and you know the value of all your assets, both personally and in relation to your business, can you really begin to think about what you want. Do you want to continue running this business? Now is the time to really think about this. Depending on the structure of your business and whether your husband has any financial interest in it may have some bearing on this, but if the business is purely yours, what do you want?
Keep communication open. Arianna Huffington is still friends with her ex-husband and goes on holiday with him. Now, this may not be possible for you, but neither does it have to be an all out war. Smart women keep focused on the end goal, recognizing that as with any business negotiation, they have to bend and flex. They know which battles are worth fighting and when it's time to walk away. Just as in any business negotiation, principles and egos are expensive. You wouldn't agree a business deal just so you could feel like you'd 'won' don't do it in your divorce.
3. IF THE BUSINESS IS YOURS, HE WON'T AUTOMATICALLY GET HALF
Separating and divorcing when you're an entrepreneur is in someways different to couples in employment, and in other ways, it's just the same. The biggest obvious difference is, there's a business and the business has a financial value that needs to be determined. But here's the thing, he won't necessarily walk off with half of it. Much depends on his role in the business, the length of time you've been married, what other ways in which he contributed to the marriage. If you co-own the business, it is easier to resolve in some respects, but there are questions to discuss such as whether you continue in the business together, the value of his shares and who he might sell them to if he wants out.
Everything changes financially on divorce. As Andrea Murad points out in her recent article for Entrepreneur.com 5 Essential Tips for Financial Planning After Divorce, what was once one, is now 50:50. But here's the thing, it doesn't have to be 50% of the business. Your lawyer will tell you not to start to negotiate until all of the assets are known and valued. Your home(s), cash in the bank, stocks shares, investment portfolios vehicles are all considered. So too your liabilities - money that you owe. Think about what you need and where you want to go both personally and professionally as this will shape the negotiations.
4. DIVORCE DOESN'T HAVE TO BE MESSY & COMPLICATED
You might think that it's impossible not to take divorce personally. Here's the thing. It's important to remember that chances are, you are both scared, hurting, frightened and a bit lost. Even if one or both of you have new partners, divorce is not easy. It's the end of something that you both once thought was forever; so remember, you are probably not being your best selves. Divorce does not define you or him, so be kind to yourself. Keeping communication open between you and your husband is crucial if you want to have a good divorce. Communication means that you both know where each of you stands. Even if you disagree, there's unlikely to be any nasty surprises, and less likelihood of unhand tack ticks.
5. WHEN IT'S OVER, MOVE ON
If you can think of your divorce as a business deal, you'll move on quicker. Why? It's said that you win some, you lose some. In business, not every deal will go the way you want it to. You might not get the divorce settlement you were hoping for either. You have choice. Let that eat you up for the next 10 years, spoiling your life; or, you can choose to move on. Let it go and focus on something else. Even if your divorce doesn't go the way that you want, you do still have the choice as to how you respond. Your business is still at risk if, through anger and bitterness, you take your eye off the ball, make poor business decisions and lose money. Dust yourself down and move on. If you've had to give him some of the business, how are you going to deal with that? If you've bought him out and cash flow is tight, what can you do to bring cash in? If you've had to sell the business, remember, you're an entrepreneur. Divorce doesn't take away that spirit. It's still in there. What can you do to start again. What have you learned and what will you do differently?
6. PICK YOUR DIVORCE TEAM WISELY
As an entrepreneur, you'll already have accountants, tax advisers and possibly a lawyer too. As an entrepreneur going through divorce, you'll need the support and guidance of all of these professionals. It's important that you pick them wisely. If you feel that you'd benefit from fresh, independent professionals, find them. Particularly if you and your husband saw them together. It's important that you feel able to rely on their advice. If you and your husband disagree on the valuations of property and business, you will need to employ independent valuers to do this. Having a good team around you will save you thousands and may be the difference between you keeping your business or not.
Remember, whether you're the CEO of a company with a Board of Directors or a Solopreneur, you have your support network so use it. That's what it's there for. Your network will help you move forward, keep focused and keep perspective. Consider hiring a divorce coach to keep you forward focused, reminding you of the practicalities and helping you deal with the inevitable emotional fall out.
7. CONSIDER YOUR HUSBAND'S POSITION FROM THE START
If you want to ensure that you keep your business on divorce, you must consider your husband's position from the get-go. Burying your head in the sand and focusing only on you is a recipe for disaster so don't do it! Because you got clear about the legal process at the start, you do, if you're honest, have a rough idea about what he's entitled to. It may be that you had a prenup and all this is irrelevant, but if you know that your husband will be entitled to make a financial claim against you on divorce that is likely to affect your business, start thinking about it now. What options and proposals can you put forward to off-set this?
8. IT DOESN'T HAVE TO COST YOU EVERYTHING
Entrepreneurs often think that they'll lose everything on divorce. It doesn't have to be that way. The absolute truth is, it's the emotions that surround divorce that cost a fortune. It's the anger, bitterness, sadness, frustration and confusion that leads people to behave in ways which antagonize the other person, drag out the proceedings, and up the legal bills. The only winners are the lawyers. So. Be smart. Be honest, open and act with integrity. Accept that if you were the main bread winner, the provider for your husband and children, that it's more than likely that you'll have to provide for him to get back on his feet as the two of you separate. By accepting this now, making sensible offers to settle, you'll be able to move on with your dignity, bank account and business in tact.