I'm exploring the idea of bringing a partner into the mix in some capacity.
I run a digital agency that is becoming somewhat successful in it's first two years of existence and I want to scale. We've shifted focus to web development as our primary service for the time being as it seems to be an easier sell.
Although we've done some beautiful and very professional sites, I am fully aware that my design skills are not near what they should be for us to raise our prices and push projects out the door faster.
My main concern is potential conflict that may arise from bringing the wrong person into the mix -- as well as the need to be fair to my partner as we grow without compromising my vision for the agency or the quality of our work.
From what you explained you need someone who add the same kind of value as you do. My suggestions is to hire a freelancer. If you felt that they are doing an exceptional job then start offering them more than salary.
- You get to know the person
- You can scale
- You learn how to increase your success rate
- Wait at least 2 to 3 months to offer more than salary unless if you met someone so godly that you wanted to make sure you do not lose them. Take note the person must delivers before you feel like you should not lose her.
Some additional pointers to consider when bringing a partner into your digital agency:
Clearly define roles and responsibilities from the start to avoid any confusion or overlap in duties.
Set expectations for communication and decision-making to ensure that both partners are on the same page.
Establish a method for resolving conflicts or disagreements that may arise.
Have a plan in place for profit-sharing and equity distribution.
Consider a trial period before officially bringing the person on as a partner to ensure that they are a good fit for the company and vice versa.
Be transparent about your vision for the agency and the direction you want to take it in to ensure that your partner is on board with your goals.
Have open and honest conversations about expectations and progress regularly to ensure that both partners are satisfied and that the partnership is working well.
What you really should do if you already have a profitable company on the table is make sure you get the right paperwork drawn up - some contracts can protect you if your business partner doesn't pull their weight, and loads of free templates that'll fit the bill can be found online. Essentially, if they didn't actually work properly, you'd have an out - a way to void their ownership stake in the company. This should somewhat help with the issues of trust.
I agree with other comments that you should ideally hire freelance first and then see how they work with you, but I know from experience this isn't always viable. Even if you have the cash to hire freelance, most freelancers aren't interested in discussing equity opportunities or they'd already be working on an agency structure themselves. They like the flexibility and financial certainty (no profit share) that you can find working solo.
Your best bet could be to either find somebody else in your market at your level, but perhaps slightly more efficient, who'd be up for a merger - or hire an equity partner on a platform like LinkedIn or StartHawk, and make sure you get several real life examples of their work so you know you're not getting into bed with the wrong guy.
It sounds like you're ready for a partner, the positives are almost self-explanatory - you're looking at the opportunity to double your possible client processing ability, as well as improve overall product quality. Shared risk is also a bonus for many people, I've been in business for years but I absolutely hate working alone. It feels less stable somehow.
On the other side, you have the fact that they may have a different creative vision than you - which may not always be a bad thing. Different opinions can help foster change and development. They can also, however, lead to conflict and issues that are tricky to resolve. Running any 50/50 partnership is a challenge because of differences of opinion - historically, I've voluntarily taken 1% less to make the pathway to resolution clearer. That's not to say you should do that, I'm merely explaining what a nightmare a 50/50 can be.
You need to be able to trust your partner to follow through, and ideally they should think differently to you but be open-minded enough to reach mutual conclusions.