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Working Together After Divorce

coownersRecently, a story about a divorce-embroiled New York vegan ice cream shop has been circulating the Internet. Besides the existence of a vegan ice cream shop, the story brings an interesting topic to the table: What to do when “married co-owners” just become “co-owners.” Its one thing to have the relationship between co-owners go sour, and its another thing entirely to have a romantic relationship go sour and poison a business along the way.

The Big Chill

The blizzard raging between Derek Hackett and Blythe Boyd is over Lula’s Apothecary, a very popular vegan ice cream shop located in New York’s East Village. Hackett and Boyd were married before the shop opened its doors in 2008, but divorce recently in 2012.

Earlier this month, Hackett filed papers with the Manhattan Supreme Court requesting a dissolution of the business. Hackett’s reason for this action is because Boyd is said to be pocketing all the profits herself, and mismanaging the business; Hackett wishes to have their business modified so any possible financial responsibility will not be reflected on him.

Needless to say, Boyd has been countering Hackett’s accusations claiming the business was her idea, and that she rightfully has been retaining the profit because she has been the only one working at the shop. It’s undeniable the root of this business melodrama is the after effects of divorce.

More Common Than You Think

Most of us may be sighing in relief, thinking “Thank goodness that isn’t me.” But co-owning ex’s are more common than you might think. The 2007 American census estimated about 3.7 million businesses were owned by spouses; but considering about half of marriages end in divorce, it’s not hard to estimate about 1.85 million businesses are owned by ex-spouses.

So if you find yourself in a situation where you’re sharing an office with a person you used to share a bed with, how on earth do you not drive the business into the ground (or into the headlines)? With some restraint, hard work, time, and these pieces of advice:

  • Listen to Aretha Franklin: You and your ex have decided to try to give your business your best efforts, so don’t skimp on the effort. Try maintaining a polite, yet respectful relationship with your ex/co-owner. But remember, to show a little respect you’ll have to actually respect the person and be shown a little respect in turn.
  • Expand Your Safety Net: You may be holding it together on the outside, but if your insides are exploding in rage or tears, it won’t be long until you have to open the floodgates. However, daily (or hourly) venting and ranting to your friends or family won’t get you through it as constructively as professional help will. If possible, go see a therapist to help you sort through the feelings effectively; maybe make it a co-owner thing to help the communication between the two of you.
  • Another Written Declaration: Your and your ex’s track record with written declarations and certificates haven’t panned out so well, but make this one the exception. Make sure you have a thorough, up-to-date partnership agreement, and make sure you both honor it!
  • Full Disclosure: Again, your relationship may not have been successful, but that doesn’t mean this new one has to follow suit. Besides, there are many others in this relationship (employees, coworkers, and the like), so commit to it with utter honesty and an open-door policy. (If you can’t read between the lines, this means don’t keep you divorce a secret from the employees.)

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