Business Law & Compliance

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Legal advice: Going into business with a loved one

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There are many examples of husband and wife teams who have found business success together. Married food entrepreneurs, Vini and Bal Aujla, joint founders of curry sauce company, ‘Vini & Bal’s’, are the latest twosome to hit the headlines after their recent appearance on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den. Following their pitch to the Dragons, they managed to secure a £50,000 investment from Piers Linney and since filming back in March, the business has secured a contract with Sainsburys.

Over 500,000 new businesses were established in Britain last year, according to StartUp Britain, and with the entrepreneurial trend set to continue, there is a strong possibility that more husband and wife teams will be tempted to take the plunge and go into business together.

However, mixing business with pleasure can bring challenges and is unlikely to work for everyone so extra care should be taken when laying the foundations for such businesses.

Business partnerships can be fraught with difficulties and the fact that the partners involved are married can make things worse rather than better.

Before making a decision to go into business together, it is important that both parties share an interest and enthusiasm for the business and that a professional contractual agreement is put in place – just as it would if the partners involved were not married or in a relationship. Corners should not be cut.

In the whirlwind of forming a new business partnership, it is easy to overlook exit arrangements and this can cause tremendous problems in the future if the relationship subsequently breaks down, for example, or if one party dies. Unplanned shareholder departures should always be planned for, even if the shareholder involved is a husband or wife.

Some tips on starting up a business with your spouse include:

Take advice on the best way to finance the start-up costs 

If these cannot be met from your own resources. There are many ways to raise finance and you need to ensure you give the business the best start with the best financing option.

Put in place suitable exit arrangements

For instance, what happens if your relationship breaks down, or you receive a third-party offer of your dreams. Address all the possible exit scenarios, so even if they are not material for you or your business, you know you have covered them off.

Make sure you have your intellectual property protected 

This includes trade mark protection if the brand value is likely to be material now or in the future.

If you have employees who are key to the business, ensure they are on proper contracts

Make sure they have suitable protections against competing with your business.

You should also take tax advice to ensure you have structured everything in the most tax beneficial manner.

Gary Davie is partner and corporate law specialist at Shakespeares.

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