As the never-ending pandemic slogs along, many businesses have re-opened, some are still closed, and a significant number are still having many of their employees work remotely, at least wherever possible. This remote, “in-between” existence obviously poses several challenges for companies and employees alike. But one challenge that is not often discussed is how conducting operations remotely impacts the ability of a minority owner to fully appreciate everything that is going on within his or her own company.
Most people reading a blog about business divorce start from the premise that some sort of issue already exists between the business partners. Often the issue is a lack of trust. But that lack of trust rarely springs from nowhere, with no underlying basis at all. Often it is the result of a lack of communication, which can be inadvertent or quite intentional. I have told minority owners to stay informed and involved, as much as possible, to avoid just such issues, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to be more present in the office. Walk around, talk to your employees, show that you want to know details. In short, communicate your desire to be involved and informed, but also be in your partner’s face, clearly demonstrating that you won’t take no for an answer when it comes to basic information.
However, when nearly everyone is working remotely, you can’t just walk around the office, spend more time talking to people at the coffee machine, or pop into an employee’s space to share an idea. Zoom meetings have become the new norm for many companies, and there seems to be an epidemic of minority owners being excluded from these meetings — usually, of course, “unintentionally.”
If you are a minority owner who has a lesser role in running things than the majority owner, that does not preclude you from having your own video chats with key employees. If you are consistently excluded from key video meetings by your business partner, and you think it is intentional – designed to freeze you out from key issues – make your objection known in writing.
Often, if you consult with a business divorce attorney and go through all the facts, the two of you may conclude that there was a valid reason for not having you involved in certain things. For example, if you have nothing to do with sales, and have never been to a sales meeting before, not including you at a sales meeting now does not foreshadow an increased desire to freeze you out of operations. However, if you are a one-third owner expressing a desire to be at a sales meeting because strategic decisions are being made, and your partner won’t even share sales data with you, your concerns may be well-founded.
Every case is different, just as every company (and set of owners) is different. Discuss your concerns with a business divorce professional so you can deal with them before the only way to do so is in the courts.
If you have any questions about this post, oppression litigation, or any other related business law matters, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our Coronavirus Thought Leadership Connection for other topics related to COVID-19.
The information contained in this post may not reflect the most current developments, as the subject matter is extremely fluid and constantly changing. Please continue to monitor this site for ongoing developments. Readers are also cautioned against taking any action based on information contained herein without first seeking advice from professional legal counsel.