My most successful startup – to date – was Syzygy 3. The “3” stood for William, Cameron, and myself. Each of us owned 33.3% of the company. We each secured an important-sounding corporate title. We outlined the roles and responsibilities for each partner so that the work was equally divided. If you graphically represented the structure of Syzygy 3, it would be a pie cut into three perfectly even pieces.
Reality was a different story. The size of those pie pieces changed daily. It was just the nature of the business and how it grew over 12+ years. Eventually, the equal division was in name only. But we still had each other to lean on; we could go on vacations and know the other two were capably running the shop. We could go after more opportunities because there was always one partner working on the delivery of previously-won projects. So, while it may not have been equal, there were three legs supporting the stool.
Compare that to a solo business owner I know. She runs a very successful business, with a loyal cadre of employees. How she thinks the business should go is how it goes. Her schedule is her schedule. If there is work to be done, she can either do it herself or hand it over to an employee. But while the employees do great work, at the end of the day, she is the lone support structure for her business. When she’s done, so’s the business.
To you, which is the better scenario? There’s no right or wrong answer, it’s a matter of personality (sometimes circumstance). Like all things in life, running a business alone or with a partner (or partners) has its pros and cons. But what goes into the pro column or the con column, that’s where you have to look beyond yourself.
Going solo is tremendously freeing, but typically has more limited growth potential. Having a partner or partners offers a stronger foundation on which to build, but that assumes all partners have the same strength to shoulder the burdens. Partnerships do spread the financial risk of a new business, but soloists usually keep 100% of the business profits. Lone entrepreneurs are challenged to sell and deliver; partnerships require agreement on direction; going alone always puts you at the top of the pyramid; having collaborators allows for flexibility. The list goes on.
While the type of business plays a major role in determining your corporate structure, at the end of the day, your personality will guide you down the solo or partnership path. What is an impediment to some is a source of strength to others. You must see the traits in yourself and others to know what path is best. Just know, whichever direction you go, you’ll be working hard every moment or every day.