By: Sarah Tourville, CEO and Founder
Many entrepreneurs can attest to the fact that building a business alone and from the ground up is no easy feat. Often times, you’re wearing multiple hats, learning as you go and constantly figuring out the importance of what it means to switch gears after mistakes are made.
I started my agency in 2006 with two things I knew for certain: First, I was going to take my agency to the top and grow a fantastic team to help me get there. After all, this entrepreneurial undertaking was, and still is, my passion. Second, I didn’t want to partner with anyone on this journey. It’s not that I didn’t want anyone to assume the role of director, COO or CFO; I just didn’t want to share the ownership of the business with anyone. Honestly, I’d been there and done that in the past, and I didn’t want to get burned again.
What I was most certain of was this: I’m great at what I do, and I wanted a solid team to help achieve strategic goals for the company. I knew I’d grow and lead a team under my guidance of myself and senior-level leaders (e.g., directors, a COO or CMO, etc.), but a partnership was out of the question. But in 2018, I broke that rule, and I can whole-heartedly say it was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my business. I have no regrets. I found my match in our recently appointed partner and COO. She joined the team in 2013 as a marketing and public relations manager, and since day one, she’s made significant contributions to the team that have bought our agency much success. In fact, she was instrumental in our recent brand redesign, which has garnered us several awards and recognition. I’ve never seen someone push as hard as she does and strive for greatness the way that she does. I truly admire her experience and determination. I’m sure the rest of the team echoes my sentiments.
What I’ve taken away from this journey toward partnership is that as the world shifts, so can one’s outlook on where their business is headed. While partnering up may not be what you want to do right now, it might be something to consider in the future. As another business founder and CEO wrote for Fortune, “the right partnerships can help you sidestep errors and streamline growth, often allowing you to do what you do best while delivering mutually beneficial outcomes.”
Here are a few things to consider if and when you decide to look for a business partner:
• Legalities: When entering a partnership agreement, it’s important to address three key rules of engagement:compensation, exit clauses and roles and responsibilities. For example, you’ll want to clearly define who owns what percentage of the business, who is investing what, where the money is coming from and how partners will be compensated.
• Chemistry: Ultimately, chemistry is key. You’ll be spending a lot of quality time together, and you want to be in sync. So when you find a partner worth holding on to, keep them close, and do what you can to keep the relationship fresh and exciting.
• Startup Experience: The irony about the relationship between my partner and me is that we both were clear — early on in our business relationship — that we didn’t want to go into business together. She had experienced her own fair share of burned bridges in partnering and felt confident in her ability to lead effectively and make a difference without taking on a partnership role. I shared her sentiments. We also are both experienced with the dynamics of starting a business, as her entrepreneurial undertakings began when she founded her own fashion and lifestyle PR firm. We both understand what it takes to build a business from the ground up. It’s one of the reasons why I hired her, and ultimately, the reason why we decided that a business partnership could work the second time around.
If you’re still undecided on the issue, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is a business partner necessary to build a successful company?
2. Will taking on a business partner be critical to the company’s success?
3. Does this person have resources, connections or skills that I lack?
Answering these questions is critical and can help you determine whether choosing a partner will take your brand in the right direction.
For those still wondering whether partnering up is the right move, here are a few signs that you may not be ready:
• Your roles aren’t defined. Ideally, you and your business partner shouldn’t have the same role within the company. This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen many people have different titles while trying to execute the same position. Are you the CEO or the COO? Make the decision and work within those boundaries. One role doesn’t diminish the other. Your team will have to focus on solving different problems, which means defined roles are key.
• You’re afraid of having less independence. Having a business partner means you’ll likely have more independence, not less. For example, when your role as chief sales officer is defined, you can focus solely on growing the business and not so much on operations or the technology aspect of the business. While these areas are important to keep in mind, they aren’t your sole responsibility — which leaves you with more autonomy in your role.
What I’ve learned in my experience is quite simple: Never say never. If you’re keen on growing your business, consider adding the right partner to the mix. It may take time and even trial and error, but once you find your professional counterpart, believe me when I say that you’ll likely move upward from there.
Originally Featured in Forbes.