A look at how partnerships can fail.

Partnerships can be very easy to get into and very tricky to get out of. They tend to start innocently enough. You have a friend interested in doing the same thing as you, so you figure two heads are better than one and you pool your resources together. Well as we will see in this story, sometimes communication can break down and things fall apart leaving you wondering why you ever get into a partnership in the first place. This doesn’t mean partnerships can never work. They can, when the both of you are willing to work together and break down the different functions you will each perform to keep the business moving forwards.

A new member of the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum shared with us his experience with partnerships. He wrote “hello all. I just started my new business last year. Landed two large commercial snow plowing accounts with a partner. We all know how partnerships turn out. Anyway my wife and I started our own business now. I have learned a lot from this site and enjoy visiting when time allows.”

I’d love to hear some of your insight into the partnership experience. What advice you would have for others considering getting into one and if you could do it all over again, what you would do to resolve issues before they happen?

“About partnerships: I have a lot of considerations and opinions about partnerships. My first bit of advice would be that if you do not have to get into one, then don’t.

By this I mean unless it is totally necessary for you to have a partner I would recommend going it alone. Although having a partner can be a motivator for both parties, your best bet is to start your own company and hire some part time help if you need it. Get everything in writing up front and I mean everything. From who will handle the paperwork (sending quotes, billing, communications, etc…) to which accountant you will be hiring. Not having every aspect of the business in writing can only lead to misunderstandings and possible legal action in the future.

Until you have things in writting between the partners, do not do any work as a company. Make sure that you get a business agreement made up and signed before you start. Not doing so can cost you thousands of dollars.

Of course this is just basic advise and there is a lot more to it. I would just say be careful who your going into business with and think about if it is worth having a partner or not.”

When you were getting your partnership going, why do you feel you decided to go with a partnership at first? There must have been some sort of allure to attract you to that business model.

Are you happy you went through that experience because it brought you to where you are now or was it a dead end experience where you feel you wasted time?

“The partnership was started out of my desire to get into the business. My ex-partner had been doing it for about 6 years already. We were discussing how he wanted to expand but did not have the time to do so and I wanted to start into the business so it seemed like a great opportunity. The deal was that I would try to land commercial snow management accounts for the new partnership venture then we would start a new company to do snow management and lawn care. Well as luck would have it I managed to land two large commercial accounts within the first month of trying. The problem as I see it now was that the week after I landed the accounts it snowed and last year was a bad year weather wise here. We were out every other day for most of the winter. This left no time to get everything in writing. At the end of the snow season my partner stopped communicating with me. Would not return phone calls and such. I started hearing from people that he was like this and not the right type of person to get involved with.

Long story short, he stole one of the accounts off “our” company for his own and got us fired from the other account. So now I am starting over on my own. Do not need a partner nor would I get into another partnership again. This is why I said that everything has to be in the form of a business agreement just in case it does not work out.

I don’t feel the partnership was a waste of time, if anything it was a learning experience as is anything in life that you do. The one thing that bothers me the most about the way it turned out is that as most people in the industry know, landing a large commercial account is not the easiest thing to do but once you have them you can keep them for a very long time provided you are doing a professional job. And the amount of money you can generate for your company is great.

I have already landed a few medium size commercial accounts for this winter and have some good leads on summer work. Will be pushing for residential lawn care very heavily at the beginning of next year. My feeling is that this company WILL be successful in both residential and commercial accounts.”

Fascinating insights that I hope will stand as a warning of what to look out for should you decide to go down the path of a business partnership.

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