Q: I started a new business and need help. I am busier than I anticipated, which is good, but I don’t have anyone around me to assist, which is bad. I have a friend who has offered to come in as my partner, but I am not so sure that I play well with others.
A: You are not alone. Check it out: The United States Census Bureau estimates that there are about 27 million businesses in the United States. Here’s how the surprising numbers break down:
- There are only about 100,000 businesses with 100 employees or more
- There are a little over a million with between 10 and 100 employees
- There are about five million with between 1 and 9 employees
- And there are (give or take) 21 million self-employed folks out there
The point is, a lot of entrepreneurs could use some help. The question then is – where should you go to get that help? There are a number of options, usually, roughly, in this order:
: As a micro business gets bigger, there are usually growing pains, and so the first and easiest way for the entrepreneur to get some relief is to hire part-time help. Then, once the business owner gets the hang of delegating, they then are ready for some sustainable growth, and that means . . .
Employees and independent contractors
: Full–time employees and contractors enable the entrepreneur to concentrate more on growing the business, and less on doing the things that can be parceled out – sales, finances, administrative work, that sort of thing.
After that, as the business gets even bigger, the possibility of bringing in a partner or partners emerges, (although of course it should be noted that not a few businesses start out as partnerships, but given the numbers above, that is more the exception than the rule.)
: There is both good news and bad news when it comes to splitting the pie and sharing ownership with a partner.
On the positive side of the ledger, a partner can and should make your life as a business owner easier, for several reasons:
- Partners offer an extra pair of hands. The typical small business owner is overworked and wears too many hats. Having a partner, first and foremost, eases the load.
- Also, as they say, two brains are better than one. Solopreneurship can be a lonely gig. Is that really a great idea? Should you discount that product? Working in a vacuum by yourself means that you don’t have the benefit of much feedback. Partners remedy that.
- Additionally, a partner can and should ease any financial burden you may have.
But there are downsides:
- Having a partner means that you will, well, have a partner. Decisions that you used to be able to make on your own now must be done in concert with your teammate. He or she may agree with you, or may not, but either way, you need to listen.
- Partners can get you in trouble. Your partner can make decisions for the business on their own, and you will be obliged to carry them out and make them work. That is the nature of partnership.
- You might get sick of one another. A business partnership is a lot like a marriage, and as we all know, not all marriages work out. You better be sure that you like your partner because you will be spending every day together at work.
- You will split the profits. This may be a good thing, or a bad thing, but either way, it is a real thing.
Because creating a partnership is such a high-wire act with significant repercussions, whatever your agreement, get it in writing. Memorialize who put in how much money, who will do what, and how you will get out.
In the end, partnerships can be great for business . . . if you get the right partner.
Today’s Tip: One last thought. Before you actually commit to the partnership, do a few projects together first. Do your styles mesh? Do you like working with one another? What is the decision-making process like? To extend the analogy – try living together before you get married.
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