Hi Aunty B
My business partner has been stealing from the company by cashing cheques left right and centre. I’m in the process of trying to ascertain the extent of the missing amounts and then terminate the partnership, but unsurprisingly my biz partner is completely uncommunicative on the issue, and will not hand over any relevant documents that she has removed from the office.
She’s also claiming to be suffering from bi-polar depression (which could well be true) and mention of the missing finances has her threatening to throw herself in front of a train. She is, however, managing to carry out freelance work elsewhere. What can I do?
Your business partner is acting irrationally, which is an enormous worry for your business. Whether she has bi-polar or not, she seems to be suffering serious mental health issues.
The first thing to know is you are not alone. Many entrepreneurs face issues with staff or business partners with mental illness.
But the second thing to know is you need to act immediately.
You need to call in a lawyer who will then call in a forensic accountant to go through the accounts and ascertain what is missing. Once you know exactly what she has stolen, you must decide whether to call in the police and have her charged. She needs to hand back the documents. They do not belong to her, they belong to the partnership and this must be made clear to her.
Her illness is sad, but you have responsibilities to others – employees, suppliers, shareholders – not just your business partner.
You also have onerous responsibilities as a director of a business or as a partner in a business. And you have the right, after all the hard work you have put into the business, to make sure your business and relationships in the business world continue.
Offer to support her in any way you can, as in time off or taking on some of her work. But also be straight with her that this is a business, you have contacted a lawyer, and that the books and records must be returned immediately.
Anna, you have no other choice and if you don’t do this now, you will have to down the track when the situation is worse, not just for you but for her too,
And if you fear that she might make an attempt to take her own life, you should probably call some relatives and express your concerns.
Remember, Anna, many entrepreneurs tell us that their worst mistake in business was taking on a business partner. Conversely, they also tell us it is one of the primary reasons for their company’s success. So take a pragmatic approach. Don’t be dragged into any emotional blackmail, but see what you can do to help behind the scenes.
Hope that helps and good luck Anna.
Your Aunty B.