Love, Marriage & Family Business | Compass Point Skip to main content

Matthew January Blog

For better, for worse.

For richer, for poorer.

In sickness and in health.

To love and to cherish.

Till death do us part…


…Or till we fall out of love, grow apart, barely speak and become adversaries with a family, a business and employees stuck squarely in the middle.


Unfortunately, it happens – a lot. Statically more than 50% of marriages end this way today. Divorce is not something that anyone thinks about happening to them when they are in the throws of early love and taking those vows noted above.


Divorce can be one of the most emotional of the 5Ds because when your best friend becomes your adversary, there is a lot of pain and feelings that complicate the issues of dividing up the assets and moving on from each other.


As mentioned in the disabled life blog last month, preparing for this 5D is much easier to do early on; in this case, when everyone still loves each other. Not terribly romantic I know, but it’s necessary when your largest asset is a business. Even if your significant other is not involved directly or does not share ownership in the business, it is still an asset and can become a part of the financial outcome of your divorce.


And that is just from the perspective of an individual owner. The odds of divorce impacting the business grow exponentially when if you have multigenerational leadership.


Now that I’ve laid this not-so-happily-ever-after scenario out, here are some things you can do to prepare:


• Have the right team of advisors: an estate attorney, business attorney, CPA firm, business coach, financial advisors, M&A firm, etc. They will help you determine what documents you need to protect the family and create an equitable division of assets


• Develop governance to guide all family members – those who are active in business and those that are not


• Make time for the crucial conversations while everyone gets along and can have level-headed discussions


Having prepared for an unpleasant situation like divorce, you will have agreed to certain things before you married, such as ownership, transition, and valuation formulas, if one is needed.  This way if/when it comes up, you will have agreements to provide clarity when feelings of hurt, anger or guilt cloud communications­.


Divorce is stressful enough, so the more you can plan out and document ahead of time, the easier it will be to part ways as amicable as possible. Most importantly, being prepared will help you use up less head space, allowing you the ability to focus on the things – and people – that are important.


Having a plan for dealing with the 5Ds (Death, Disability, Divorce, Distress or Disagreement) is like a pilot having a parachute. You will be better off having it and not needing it, than needing it and not having one.

Matthew Baran

Matthew’s background is deeply rooted in family business. As a third-generation leader himself, Matthews shares the first-hand insights he gained on the inner workings of their family-run enterprise, including merger experience, establishing a global operation and a 5D life event that impacted his father’s transition plans. 

You may also like…

A family working together in family business


Becoming a Family Business: This Firm Lives What They Teach

You may know the man in the photo as Tom Garrity, Founder of Compass Point, a family business consulting firm in Southeastern PA, headquartered in the Lehigh Valley; I know him as my inspiration, mentor, confidante, tennis partner, and best of all – my dad. This blog marks...

Read More
The Culture Code review


Cracking The Culture Code for Business and Leadership Strategy

Discover how business and leadership intersect in Daniel Coyle's "The Culture Code," offering insights into building successful organizations. I recently asked the LinkedIn community what book most closely aligns with your leadership identity...

Read More
on the left side of the image is an older man with his eyes closed, head in hand, with a stressed expression on his face. To the right of him are 3 short blank lines (as if letters need to be filled in) and then a capital T, indicating the topic he doesn't want to talk about; Exiting the Business.


The 4-Letter Word Owners Can’t Afford NOT to Talk About: EXIT

I’ve had my share of family business owners who avoid discussing this four-letter word to the point of pure denial, quickly ending the conversation when this word bubbles up. The word? E-X-I-T. It sounds so final. The brutal truth is that 100% of owners exit the business, yet only 50% – just 1 out of 2 owners – will do it on their terms...

Read More

Where Family Businesses Come to Grow & Learn

At Compass Point, we make it easy to get insights, training, tools, and articles straight to your inbox and help family business owners and their team continue to grow, learn, and lead.