Should I Find a Partner?

Your goal is a marriage made in heaven, not a partnership headed for divorce court.

By Rod Walsh

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: Mywife and I have a plumbing business operating as a soleproprietorship, and we're thinking about expanding our businessby forming a corporation with two other plumbers. Can you advise uson the pros and cons of teaming up with outside partners?

A:We'd be delighted to give you a few things to consider as youdecide which route of expansion to take. As your question implied,there are both pros and cons here-plenty of both.

Resource Guide
Sharpen your decision-making skills with Ben Franklin's 12 Rules of Managementby Blaine McCormick.

Let's clear up one thing right away: Your new partners willnot be "outside partners." You're contemplating anarrangement as serious as marriage. As such, it's anarrangement that can provide as much fulfillment as it doesanguish. Your business partners will be a part of your life,morning, noon and night. Decisions you make now could well becomesources of endless conversation, debate and, finally, resolution.And if you select the right partners, the extra time you spendmaking those decisions can pay off in terms of better customerservice, higher employee morale and greater profits-to name just afew benefits.

Some decisions will even be deferred indefinitely, often for thebetter. But make no mistake: If you're used to running yourbusiness as many sole proprietors do-like a personal piggybank-those days will be fond memories. Your new partners will beputting their money, time, expertise and dreams on the line.They'll be looking for a return and a say.

Of course, you're looking for a return, too. You want toexpand your business. You didn't indicate whether you wanted toexpand by moving into new locations, offering new services ormerely taking on additional business. Others may disagree, but webelieve you should thoroughly evaluate all other options beforebringing partners into your business.

Money is one of the most common reasons for seeking partners.You may need the money, but do you really want to give up the totalcontrol you now enjoy? Is a bank or Small Business Administration loan abetter avenue? Can your suppliers offer expansion capital? Ifyou've rejected all other sources of expansion and you'reset on bringing in partners, be aware of what your ideal partnerswill bring to the company: money or expertise. And make sure youhave a clear understanding of each partner's responsibilities.Fully discuss how profits and losses will be distributed, howdisputes will be settled, and when and how additional partners maybe brought into the business.

As excited as you are now, try to understand that your businesslife will change in ways you can't imagine. Know your futurepartners as well as you can. We know two businessmen who even hadan "engagement" before the final "vows." They"lived" together for six months, acting as one businessinformally. In the end, they didn't become partners; instead,they formed joint ventures for projects they couldn't handlealone. For the other 95 percent of their business, they'restill independent businessmen and competitors. It's anarrangement that worked for them and could work for you aswell.

Rod Walsh and Dan Carrison are the founding partners of SemperFi Consulting in Sherman Oaks, California and the authors of Semper Fi: Business Leadership the Marine CorpsWay.

The opinions expressed in this column are thoseof the author, not of All answers are intended tobe general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areasor circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consultingan appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Thought Leaders

The Collapse of Credit Suisse: A Cautionary Tale of Resistance to Hybrid Work

This cautionary tale serves as a reminder for business leaders to adapt to the changing world of work and prioritize their workforce's needs and preferences.

Business News

'Could This Be True?': Blockbuster Might Be Teasing a Surprise Comeback

The company has shuttered all of its locations except for one in Bend, Oregon.

Growing a Business

The No.1 Most Bankable Skill You Must Have to Succeed in 2023

If you don't foster this skill, you'll fall behind the pack financially and professionally in 2023.

Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business News

I'm a Former Google Recruiter. Here's How to Land a Job in Tech — and What Can Blow Your Interview

A former Google recruiter says layoffs may be trendy, but tech workers are always needed. Here's how to land a job at a major tech company.