Partners For Profit

From limited partnerships to corporations, forming a successful business alliance takes time, planning and research.

major credit reporting companies. Be wary if the person says no.

If you plan to have your prospective partner actively involved in the running of your business, you’ll need to know his or her professional strengths to determine if they complement your own. For example, if you’re an introverted person who prefers working behind the scenes, you may need an extroverted partner who can schmooze with clients, make presentations and bring in business. If you’re poor with figures and details, it would help if your partner were a financial whiz or at least could understand the books.

In addition to skills, you should also look at personal factors, such as the person’s marital situation. How stable is it? If married, how supportive of the business will the spouse be? Spouses can greatly influence the amount of time and money a person gives to the business.

If your partner is going through a divorce, you may find your own assets under scrutiny during discovery proceedings to determine the spouse’s true value, says Taylor. Also, your partner’s shares may be switched to the spouse’s ownership during a settlement, making the spouse an unwanted partner in your business.

Also take into account the person’s health history. A chronic problem may prevent someone from fulfilling the bargain or could cost your company thousands in medical expenses down the road.

Ask other people what they know about your potential partner. Check with relatives, former co-workers, clients or other associates to determine how the person operates in social or professional circles or manages people, projects, time or money. Does the person have integrity? Are there habits that might prove embarrassing in front of clients?

Also, ask yourself if you can get along and if you share a common sense of values, which are two factors many partners consider critical to their success.

Nearly four years ago, BE published a story by Charles Jamison, who shared the reasons his New York advertising agency, Jamison & Associates Advertising Inc., went belly up in 1992 (see “Why My Business Failed,” June 1994). Among the problems was a partnership that soured, leaving Jamison several steps behind even as he transitioned his business from Jamison & Leary Advertising to a solo act. According to Jamison, he and his partner, Kathryn Leary (now president and CEO of Leary Group Inc., in West New York, New Jersey) had the same goals but two radically different approaches to running an agency. For instance, the two had different philosophies about landing new business. “My partner believed one had to socialize and make contacts,” says Jamisom “l believed you had to create a legitimate reason for the company to need your services.” The clashes led to Leary leaving.

ASKING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS
After deciding in 1990 to formalize her freelance graphics design business, Cynthia R. Jones invited professional buddy Barry K. Worley to join the venture. She felt that Worley’s strong background in sign age and way-finding design would help strengthen the firm’s competitiveness. Although Jones had used Worley, a former co-worker, on assignments

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