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Thinking of branching off on my own with a partner....looking for advice
2

Thinking of branching off on my own with a partner....looking for advice

Thinking of branching off on my own with a partner....looking for advice

(OP)
Hey everyone,
I've worked in the design sector as a structural engineer and the last 5 years I have been working as a forensic engineer. Basically doing property/construction related investigations and expert work. I think I'm at the point in my life where I want to branch off on my own. It's something I've always wanted to do. A friend of mine who I worked with out of school, she's 10 years older than me, we've always talked about starting a company together the last 5 years or so. I only worked with her a couple years but we've kept in touch. She has a lot of contacts and design experience and I am an S.E. but haven't done full time design lately. I've done some side work, reports, lighter design (not full buildings), and I want to see if we can be successful together. The thing I'm the most worried about is my lack of design experience the last 5 years, some projects make me nervous so I think us teaming up is a good idea. I'm planning on staying at my current job as we work through starting this.

I'm just looking for advice from anyone that's partnered with anyone? She's talked about having two separate companies to start and we can contract each other for jobs while we "feel each other out". We also have a third engineer that would help us with calcs and drawings as a contractor. Just looking for any advice from people that have went through something similar. Another issue is health insurance for my family if I'm self employed. I might try seeing what ASCE has to offer. I currently have liablity insurance through them for my business and they are always sending me offers.

Thanks.

RE: Thinking of branching off on my own with a partner....looking for advice

2
Well, it seems like you have a complicated situation over there. I would assume that your current employer already knows about your side business as you have obtained liability insurance through them.

Drumming up business while you are working for someone else doesn't seem like a good idea. Even if you can keep things separated, clients are going to want to talk to you during normal business hours. You will have meetings and site visits to do which can't necessarily be done on the weekends and at nights.

The partnering situation seems odd to me as well. As the suggestion for two separate companies is coming from your "partner", it appears as if she doesn't have confidence in your ability to bring in the work (or maybe your commitment to the company). As you said, she is the one with the connections to bring in the work. My opinion.... you can't be a little bit pregnant..... or, you can't start a partnership where you are separate. The two of you should be able to work together well. She should help cover your lack of knowledge and vice versa.

Just my $0.02 and I'm sure others will not like my opinion at all.

RE: Thinking of branching off on my own with a partner....looking for advice

I agree with SteelPE, but can see the other one working under the right circumstances. Since the two of you would be separate, you won't be sharing profits. You may share work, which sounds the same, but it isn't. In all likelihood, you'll only share work when one of you has too much to do on your own.

The two ways I would agree to the arrangement:

1) As a forensic engineer, I can bring in enough work to satisfy my financial needs. I won't get rich, and things might even be tight from time to time, but I'll make it and my family will keep a roof over head, a pillow under their head, and food in their mouths (couldn't come up with a synonym for mouth that rhymes, sorry).

2) I'm miserable at my current place of employment and anything is better than being there.

Of course number 1 is more preferable. If that's the case, then you stand to gain by this relationship through exposure to her contacts and, potentially, a formal merger and growth later. If not, then I'd be very careful. You'll essentially be an independent contractor for her business, and it would be a rare situation that the resulting relationship is one of equality.

RE: Thinking of branching off on my own with a partner....looking for advice

@mfstructural: forensics pays better than design and is easy to do as a small practice, so retooling for design seems a bit counterproductive. Sharing office space sounds like a good first step. Having someone to hang out with and bounce ideas off can be nice too.

RE: Thinking of branching off on my own with a partner....looking for advice

There is no right time. So if you feel the urge to jump out on your own, and you are comfortable with your design process, and you also are comfortable working a lot, then take the leap. But if any of those things raise flags, take a step back and make yourself stronger until you're ready to jump again.

Personally, I don't like the idea of keeping the job, working your side business, and having a co-operative but arm's length partnership with your friend. It's too much and your work or progress on your work could suffer.

RE: Thinking of branching off on my own with a partner....looking for advice

(OP)
I definitely agree that forensics pays more...that's why I got into it in the first place! I have a ton of autonomy in my position I've worked from home for the last 4 years and am very flexible during the day. I can work at night if I need to. The only thing that matters is that my clients are happy and I'm billing the hours I need to, which I have not had a problem with yet. So making time for meetings, etc during the day should not be a problem. Because I'd be in design, I wouldn't be competing with the company I'm consulting for now. The suggestion of having two companies was something we talked about not necessarily from her. The main reason for that was to also get started faster. She has some contacts but not like they are a huge list. We would have to go out and talk to architects and work on getting clients etc, which I'm fine with. I have had some repeat clients and seem to referred a lot. I have a lot of contacts in the forensic industry but I have a non compete for 12 months so I would not be able to talk to my clients for a year. So I would have to ride it out that year. That's why I'm interested in design also, plus to be honest I do some design but I want to make sure I stay "on top of it" and don't lose the skills.

RE: Thinking of branching off on my own with a partner....looking for advice

@m
fstructural....have done exactly what you want to do...15 years ago. No regrets.

Wish there was a way to contact directly here, but there is not.

RE: Thinking of branching off on my own with a partner....looking for advice

Most the firms I worked for did this. One important caveat is that I am in Canada (as were they) so the health insurance thing wasn't an issue. Extended health (and dental) is available for sole proprietors and small partnerships.

I'm just a drafter (well part time that is) and will likely never run my own company full time. I've worked for a few companies that started up as small partnerships. They all made money in spite of being far from perfect; sometimes it was mind boggling that they could still make money (maybe doing this in Canada is less risky somehow). I feel like the engineers posting in this forum are at the least 'better than average', but are more likely to be well within the top 25% of the talent pool, so I could only guess that there would be a high chance of success, but with the trade-off of increased risk.

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