Business Partnership Advisor
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Chris Reich, Business Luminary
Relatives Should Never Keep the Books in a Business Partnership
Things were fine between me and my partner for the past 6 years. But lately he gets angry when I ask to see the bank statements. We had a great month last month but there is no money left in the bank account according to my partner. I just want to see where the money goes. Problem is, his wife keeps the books and I’m starting to wonder if they are taking extra money out. What can I do?
The Partnership’s Bookkeeper Should Never Be a Relative
For a partnership to work well, the partners need to trust each other. That means transparency is very important. One way to prevent future disputes over money is to have monthly meetings to review the books and related data. When a managing partner starts get ‘protective’ of the accounting data, there might be a problem in the making. If your partner’s spouse, son, mother, or some other relative handles the books, there might be a serious problem. It’s never a good idea to have a relative keeping the books.
Even when people get along well, having one partner’s relative handling the books just isn’t good policy. There is an inherent conflict of interest. You can see that. Another issue is that the bookkeeper/relative is being paid, should be paid, and that creates an imbalance in the household take-home money by one partner. Sure, mature people can work these things out but I still advise against it because having a relative in the books becomes a flash-point for conflict when a disagreement breaks out over some smallish money thing.
Another Reason to Not Have A Partner’s Spouse Keep the Books
When a spouse is that familiar with the inner workings of the business they will tend to exert some influence over the partnership and the business. “Honey, you work much harder than Bill and you should make more than him.” Comments like that can kill a partnership. I see it every day.
It gets even worse when adult children get involved at that level. It’s just wise to avoid the problem.
If you are in a partnership, go with an independent accountant.
Chris Reich recommends that you never use a partner’s relative to keep the books. It always leads to problems.
Bookkeeping Is Not Expensive These Days
Now that Quickbooks has a great online version, you can get professional bookkeeping services under $100/mo. for many businesses. Look around if you haven’t for a while. Get a few quotes. You’ll find that having a relative in there is just not worth the potential difficulty.
If you need a new bookkeeper and don’t know where to start, contact me and I’ll help you get started.
“Why deal with the grief of having your spouse in the middle of a business dispute? It’s not worth it. Partnerships should always have independent bookkeeping services.”
When the business partnership breaks down, the darker sides of the personalities come through. A dominant partner turns into a bully. A person who does not do well with conflict will withdraw. As the bully gets more aggressive, the pacifist withdraws further. Eventually, the bully gets so angry they are ready to lock the other partner out. The pacifist quits coming in. The next blowout is over money. The course is as logically predictable as what will happen to your car if you hit the highway with no oil in the engine. It will get louder and louder until the engine seizes.
I recommend that partners talk through a specific issue and then draft an agreement (called a resolution) that sets a policy. You can keep this in a binder to serve as amendments (or foundation) to your Partnership Agreement. In this post I’ll explain how to talk about things that bug you with your partner and how to draft a binding resolution to fix the problems.
Unless you are in some sort of political business, you should keep politics out of your establishment completely. Of course, you have freedom of speech, but we are in very contentious times and displays of political or religious positions might be off-putting to to your customers.