To Partner or Not to Partner

This is a guest post from Laura Silver, a senior communications counselor with experience spanning both domestic US and global healthcare communications. She founded LAS Communications Inc. on the principle that quality work is an outgrowth of deep strategic insight that can only be acquired through direct and personal knowledge of the client and its brands.

When I left agency life 7 years ago, I decided that I never wanted to run an agency or be responsible for other people’s income again. So what does partnering mean for me?

In the last few months, I’ve been approached by several people to ‘team up’ to pursue new business.  Some of these folks are really just looking for me to get new business and pass some work to them.  No, thanks.  But a couple of them have approached me to develop a more permanent offering to service bigger pieces of business.

It turns out that there are a lot of choices and questions and it can get very complicated. I like my potential partners very much and they are both smart and professional.  But I’m just not sure that I’m ready to get married to them.

As I sort through my feelings about this, I’ve come up with a short list of critical questions for those considering partnering:

What kind of structure do you want?

  • A loose affiliation, limited partnership or incorporation?
  • How will you bill for your services?
  • Who will manage the finances?
  • Are you in different states – are there tax implications?
  • How will you manage investment and start-up costs?
  • What’s the exit strategy?

How will you settle disputes?

  • Is one person the ‘leader’?
  • Majority rule with an odd number of partners?

Is the partner offering stronger than yours alone?

  • Are your skills and experience the same or complimentary?
  • Will it help you expand into new areas?
  • How will you determine who does what?
  • What will you call yourselves?

Will partnering make you happier?

  • After all, quality of life is no small thing

For me, working as a consultant has been some of the most rewarding work of my career and I worry that I might lose that sense of independence and flexibility if I have partners.  On the other hand, partners could help me grow in new ways and expand into new areas.

So, where does this leave me? I’m still not sure that I want to get married but maybe I am looking to date for a while. I’d love to know how you PR pros out there have tackled this.

  • I struggle with this, too, Laura! So many great opportunities out there that are too much for one person. But then, you lose the freedom of being solo. I’ve been solo for most of my 5 years as a consultant, but I’ve partnered up a couple of times (heavy dating v. marriage, though). I think every situation and opportunity needs to be examined, and he outcome will be different depending on who is involved.

    I follow the same rule with this as I do signing on any business. I follow my gut. The few times I didn’t, I realized very quickly I made a mistake. Always listen to your gut. It never fails you.