Thinking about forming an interior design partnership? Read this.
Picture it: Los Angeles, 2014.
You're a new designer and so excited to get started creating your design empire. You're full of passion and excitement in going about building this business you've always dreamed of.
Blanche is an experienced designer. You get introduced via a mutual friend. She's got what seems like 80 million years in the business and doesn't look a day over 35. You're intrigued. You want to meet her and "pick her brain".
You try to Google her, but find she has no website. It's like she doesn't exist online. But you know she's real. You've talked to some other people and found out she's a trusted interior designer in the community. You're pretty sure she isn't a Craigslist killer, so you agree to meet.
You two meet for a drink. She's a wonderful person and has so much experience that you can't help but want to have her on your team. She'd be your ace in the hole! You start to envision the wealth of knowledge she's got hiding in that brain of hers. She's probably encountered every asshole client under the sun to steer you away from the same heartache. She probably has relationships with all the companies at the design center. She might also have a rolodex with like 9 million clients. The possibilities are endless!
As unlikely and lucky as it feels you two decide that forming a partnership would be wonderful! Two brains are better than one and this has to be the key to getting more clients even quicker. You loosely discuss the details of your interior design business partnership figuring most people are cool and the gang. And she didn't seem to have a weird obsession with cutlery.
But, you could have just bought yourself a date with Hell.
Interior design business partnerships could be a great thing. Or they could really eff you in the head (and pocketbook) if you're not careful.
Are you new to design? Then you might want to put the brakes on this relationship. If you think that forming a partnership when you're just starting your business is a great idea, it might just be your downfall. You may want to consider a mentor ship, instead. Let the designer teach you, if they are up to it, and then you can see how they really do business.
While learning from a more experienced designer is invaluable, your education is going to come at a price. While gaining valuable insight, you could be shortchanging your gifts to get this insight. Don't automatically assume that more years in the field means that they know more. There are a lot of dummies out there (in any field) who don't know shit. Years don't equal experience.
I wouldn't haven't gained all of my experience if I partnered right out of the gate.
There are just some life and business lessons that you need to learn on your own. And even though it seems harder that way, your education will really help to guide your future success.
What to think about before you commit to an interior design business partnership:
Pick Roles. You and your new partner must get your roles sorted before you start bringing in any business. Decide how you will pay for things like a website, social media, strategy, sales, customer service, accounting, contracts, professional fees. Decide how you each can use the photos of design work you do together should you split up. Decide who's in charge of social media and what your policy is.
Goals & Investment. You both have to be on the same page in regards to goals and how you're gonna reach them. If you want to build a design business that focuses on local clients and they want to build a virtual design house how do you make that work? What if one of you is working 60 hours a week and the other partner is working 20 hours, how's that going to make you feel?
Who wins the battle? How are you going to handle business decisions? If you want to go to a trade show, but your partner thinks it's a waste of money, then what? How will you resolve problems?
Get It In Writing. Whether or not the person you consider going into business with is your oldest friend or a newish acquaintance, get everything in writing. You want to have your roles, your compensation, expenses, and even an exit strategy. If things go sour, you should figure out before hand how you will split the business, the contacts, the money, everything. It could get messy. A lawyer would be really a good idea.
Like PB & J. You two should complement each other. You both shouldn't be aces at paint colors, only. Someone should be an ace at social media, and someone should be an ace at customer service. This partnership should be a meeting of PB & J, a delicious treat that you can only enjoy when the ingredients are perfectly paired.
Make sure you like them. Don't jump into a partnership because you think they know a lot more than you do. You're going to be spending lots of time with them. Do you have anything in common? Do you talk with one another easily? Do you like how they present themselves and would you be comfortable having them as one of the faces of your business? Maybe have a friend meet them to make sure you get an outside perspective on how well you could work together.
Work together first. Before you decide that they are the one for you, do a project together. See how it goes. Is it smooth or did you uncover some issues that need to be addressed?
There's a lot to be said for learning all about your business all by yourself. You will learn valuable lessons like spotting the a-hole client a mile away, your new partner might not see the same "red flags" you will, then what? Maybe you discover that you have a knack for figuring out a new process and your partner doesn't see the benefit. There's lots of tricky issues that can come up when you partner and without your own business experiences to draw from you might be willing to let the other partner take the lead. And that's the last thing you want.
Alycia Wicker is a business coach for creative entrepreneurs. Her clients land more of their own dream clients and make more cash, period. Celebrity gossip whore. Elvis-obsessed.