My partners want me out. How do I get fair treatment?

The last 6 months have been intense work in a newly started consultancy company with two friends. Now, a little over a week ago, they decided to kick me out and offer me 5000$ for my third of the company.

The thing is, we have a turnover of 40.000$ and profits of around 39.000$ in just a few months. Around 30.000$ of these profits have only been invoiced and not yet paid to our company, and the services that we provide is due to august, which is where we get the payment.

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The last 6 months have been intense work in a newly started consultancy company with two friends. Now, a little over a week ago, they decided to kick me out and offer me 5000$ for my third of the company.

The thing is, we have a turnover of 40.000$ and profits of around 39.000$ in just a few months. Around 30.000$ of these profits have only been invoiced and not yet paid to our company, and the services that we provide is due to august, which is where we get the payment.

A little back and forth, and their offer to me is 7000$ and 20% of the turnover until 2021. Now, how do i even make sure that these money are sent to me if i sell my 33%? i won't be able to access the company account to check up. I'm getting pressured by what i thought was my two best friends and partners, to either decline og accept a shitty offer in 24 hours, or they will look at me with 'the eyes of business owners' not 'the eye of friends'.

They use terms like 'We don't understand how you can't just accept the offer, it is so good for you, we do this as friends.' And 'You can't get any extra response time unless you have a legitimate reason'. I told them i needed time to talk to a lawyer, and that's what about about to do in an hour from now. I just logged into our company account and saw that they spent 500$ on counseling against me.. Is that even legal? i own 33% of those money.

Really shitty situation. It all boils down to: Do i want to get a little cool cash and a % of the turnover until 2021 (which i don't know if they will even deliver, after all this backstabbing), or do i want to keep my 33% and make their life hard (im still the owner of 1/3 of 12.000$ and eventually 40.000$ once they deliver, unless they somehow manage to invoice those money to some other company, which doesn't really sound legal to me but, i dont think they give a fuck).

I appreciate any help or inputs, as this is my first startup experience and what i thought was a common vision turned into a partner backstabbing nightmare.

Other points

I agree with talking to a lawyer. Personally I would fight this just on principle if I was getting pushed out like this. I wouldn’t take the offer or sign anything until I talk to a lawyer to better understand my options and my chances at fighting this. The offer sounds very low. (And in general I’m extra cautious when I notice a manipulative negotiation tactic like 24 hour time pressure.)

Also it depends on how much you value the upfront cash vs the potential of the company. But clearly your other founders think this is a good deal for them (not for you).

I’m not a lawyer and I’m not sure what agreements you have in place (company/founder/employee agreements, vesting schedules, etc) but if you were a key contributor getting the company off the ground, especially working unpaid, I think you should be able to get way more than what they are offering you. And in general I think there is some recourse if you are getting pushed out unfairly. I was curious and searched briefly, e.g. check out this related question from 2016 :

Basically the CEO thought of himself as the ultimate leader and i saw the three of us as partners. They havnt given me any reason directly, but i theorize that he might have felt that i could be a challenge in the future. We were gonna create the company just the two of us, but he dragged in a third guy, and now it feels like that that was only done, so that he could always have the board majority. Easy to kick me and get my 33% after i created the entire digital setup, and get a new techie that doesnt challenge him and only requires like 3-4% i guess.

Business and family or friends always turns out bad, get a lawyer. No matter what you’re not going to be happy and either will they. Best to make it worth it by actually getting paid.

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July 24, 2020, 2:33:40 PM

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