"My advice to people who feel like they're in a relationship or a partnership that's falling apart is better communication, more frequent and more in-depth. A better understanding of what decisions are being made. And make sure that all the partners understand and sign off on all the decisions that are being made so that you don't get into the blame game of he said and she said. That's the biggest challenge."
If it's not salvageable, there needs to be documentation in place stating how you get out of that partnership. In fact, one of the biggest failures in small businesses is the lack of an exit agreement, Lemonis said.
"I'm not a big fan of prenups in relationships, but I am a big fan of prenups in partnerships," he said. "Nobody ever goes into a relationship expecting something to fail, even though it's an uncomfortable conversation upfront, you have to anticipate, if this doesn't work, how do I get out? And you want to make sure that you have a clear path to exit."
That agreement can specify how the partner may get out of the deal, how to sell or trade their position, or how the other party can buy you out.
Another reason to tread carefully when considering turning a personal relationship into a business is it can affect more than just the couple. There are employees and customers to consider.
As Lemonis points out, the lack of trust in Tom and Nancy's personal relationship permeated the professional relationship and as a result "it spilled out all over this business, including the employees."
So when such a partnership goes south, "Leave the employees out of it. Don't have them pick a side. It's not—you know, in a divorce, you never wanna pull the kids into it and have them pick for mom or dad. It's the same in business. Don't play that game. 'Cause all you're gonna end up doing is losing your employees."
To determine who actually is a good potential partner, Lemonis says to look at other factors in a business relationship than in a personal one. Don't partner up with someone who's investing in a business for fun. (Lemonis sees this phenomenon all the time in the restaurant business.)
"What I would do is get into a partnership where there's a number of people who all bring something different to the table, a different skill. One may be good at technology. One may be good at sales. One may be good at manufacturing. One may be good at accounting."
"If they don't bring a skill, then they truly don't add incremental value above and beyond the money. I wouldn't do it."