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A failed marriage doesn't have to mean a failed small business

Almost half of all Americans work in small businesses. Economists agree that small businesses will fuel the economic turnaround. In Chicago and elsewhere, policymakers are debating how to encourage entrepreneurs to launch their businesses and how to help small businesses grow. All eyes are on the small business owner, it seems.

What many may not realize is that a small business is as vulnerable to marital turmoil as it is to economic downturns. When a small business owner gets divorced, the business can suffer -- and marriage partners and business partners will share the pain.

One small business owner tells of his contentious and protracted divorce and its effect on his company. He lost time from work, he lost potential customers and he lost touch with his staff during that time. The whole process took a year, and his business lost about a quarter of its annual revenues that year.

Things could have been worse, according to one business consultant. Entrepreneurs can spend more time on the job than other "worker bees" even in the best of economies.

In a downturn, the business can become the entrepreneur's sole focus. The family's welfare depends on that business. At times, though, the entrepreneur will be so intent on securing the family's future that he or she will miss what's going on in the present. When the small business owner looks up, the marriage is in trouble, the expert said, and it's too late to fix it.

There are ways to protect a company -- and a marriage -- from the uncertainties of being a small business owner. We'll cover those in our next post.

Source: Financial Post, "You don't have to lose your firm in a divorce," Deborah L. Cohen, Oct. 3, 2011

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