How to Start an AE Firm

Learning Series

May 16 2016 // 5:00 AM

The First Step - Alone or Together?

Written by Jared Perry | @PAEVENjared

Part 3: The First Step - Alone or Together?

I’m so excited I can hardly sit down to write this. We are officially there. We have reached critical mass. This is where it all starts. A person in your position should now be equipped (having read part 1 and part 2 of this series) to start putting together the pieces of a business plan. If you haven’t read parts 1 and 2, I suggest you do so. I’m advocating this because they outline the items in your life that will help you manage both your new business and your personal life. It is much easier to do this now before your vision gets clouded with the success and triumph of running your own firm.

I wanted to start this off a little differently because executing a successful business plan is an enormous endeavor. We are going to get very in-depth throughout this series and I want to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row. The first piece of the puzzle is, as the title of the article indicates, “Alone or Together?” By this I mean do you go it alone or add a business partner? Have you thought about it before? Hopefully the answer is yes. If not, that is what I am here for. There is no right or wrong answer here. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The advantage to having a business partner is that there is someone else available to do what needs to be done. This includes business planning, networking, physical work at your studio, and of course the financial aspect. If you are going it alone then you will be wearing many hats and have the full burden of the company’s success (or failure) on your shoulders. Should you opt for a partnership, you would gain the value of a business partner that wants your company to grow and succeed as much as you do. This is rarely achieved when you are hiring employees for your business. No amount of incentives or management can get your employees to the level of commitment that a business owner has. Encouraging and incentivizing employees is a full-time job in itself. However, a business partner does not need to be incentivized. They are self-motivated because it is in their best interest that the company does well -  they have skin in the game. Especially as a start-up. It goes back to the chicken and pig fable (bacon omelet scenario).

The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. If you can’t tell yet, I’m big on the pig. 

Having a business partner also means you will not have unilateral control over the company. This is a good thing. Many companies fail by not vetting decisions with multiple partners and becoming myopic in their vision. Having someone to bounce things off of is extremely helpful. Not to mention spending all day by yourself would be horrible. Even an introvert like me can’t stand to be all by himself all day, every day. Having a business partner was the best decision I made for myself, and in turn, our company.

Is your brain churning yet? Are you combing through your mental rolodex for names that would be a good fit? This decision is the first of your actual business plan, so make it count. You will want to have this figured out prior to completing an entire business plan as a lot of the work would be for naught. Should you be in a partnership, seek to establish a compatible working relationship with your business partner, working to get buy-in of the entire plan, rather than finding agreement without argument. Anything other than a 50/50 relationship is not advisable.

I would like to take a moment to caution you. If you have already talked to someone who owns a business or someone who has a business partner, do not let their experiences determine how you set up your company. Good or bad. Go back and re-read part 2 of this series if you must. People may inadvertently sway your planning and decision making by telling you all their stories about how many things they had to overcome. If you find yourself in one of these war stories, be sure to ask why it went wrong rather than focusing on what went wrong. Making decisions for your company based on someone else’s opinion or poor partner selection is not what is best for YOUR business. As with all decisions you make, there are no right or wrong answers. There are only answers that work best for you and your company. Remember, this is not a one size fits all series. Depending on your location, skillset, strengths, and weaknesses, the decision of alone or together will be different for each and every one of you. 

In my own business partnership I’ve found that it hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns. It’s hard work. It’s like a marriage. You need to be compatible, you need to build each other up, you need to have strengths in different areas of life, you need to be open and honest, and you need to be able to be vulnerable with that person. If they’re having trouble with something – help them. If you struggle, seek their counsel. Doing these things will pay dividends, literally and figuratively. 

The last thing I want to share is something you might find helpful. I have no psychological proof for this next statement, but I actually think that an age gap is a great recipe for success. My business partner and I are 13 years apart in age. When we started I was in my late 20’s and he was just turning 40. The difference in experiences, networks, philosophies, and skillsets were vast. We had great conversations back and forth about our observations of previous employers and mentorship from fellow business owners. We both brought unique experiences to the table, and for that reason, we were able to do one of the most important things a business can do: hire the best talent. We were able to recruit from different age ranges and backgrounds because we had each other. Split the two of us apart and you have a 27-year-old trying to recruit people away from their current job. That is difficult. Having two of us established a legitimacy that is harder to portray with a single-owner business. 


  1. Before you go bananas with your business planning, decide whether or not you can see yourself running your business as a partnership or not. If so, consider this the nudge you need to start the process of finding the right candidate.

  2. Don’t let jaded opinions of others determine whether or not you have a business partner. Like we discussed in part 2, perform your due diligence and take all advice and filter it through your own lens.

  3. If you do opt for a business partner, work on, maintain, and grow that relationship every day. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”


UP NEXT >> Part 4: How to Select a Business Partner

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