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What to do when your only partner can't work?

By cable in News
Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 03:11:19 PM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

My partner just suffered a heart attack at 29 years old. This means the business only has me left and a contractor (who just took a two week vacation last week) to take care of it.

Granted I can't find another partner real quick, and contractors have to go through an extensive screening process. What do you do if suddenly you are the only person who can run the business? Then what if you can only do it part-time in the evenings and weekends because you have a primary job and your business is a secondary job?

Should I:
  1. Close down and disband the business. The only stock out there is privately held by the company. Restart a new business when times get better.
  2. Keep the business going and hope that the contractor comes back in time, and/or the partner recovers.
  3. Keep the business going, do the work of three people, get so stressed out that I have to quit anyway?
  4. Retool the business from a Service Computer business to a Development and Software applications company?
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What to do when your only partner can't work? | 25 comments (18 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
Ask your customers for some slack (4.00 / 2) (#1)
by Tin-Man on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 01:50:19 PM EST

People are pretty willing to work around catastrophes. Obviously, since you are holding down another job, and this is only a secondary job, this isn't a terribly big business you have. So simply explain to your customers what has been going on, assure them that their contract work will be completed, and ask for some leniency in your project timetables.
The future sure isn't what it used to be!
Reduce Workload (1.00 / 1) (#2)
by orthox on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 01:53:36 PM EST

How about reducing the number of clients (and taking smaller jobs) until your staffing problem is over?

You could also subcontract out to other firms if you feel the need to maintain current work levels.

Re: Reduce Workload (none / 0) (#24)
by cable on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 04:28:56 PM EST

I have been in talks with at least two other companies over this. They are booked up as well, but if they get any free spots they will let me know.

Only you, can help prevent Neb Rage!
[ Parent ]
Tough call (4.00 / 2) (#3)
by Notromda on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 02:03:34 PM EST

That's a hard decision... It really depends on how much you have riding on the business. My partner went on vacation last week, and got bit by a spider, so he's out for most of this week. We do this full time (running an ISP), and it has been hack for me trying to do business stuff, where I usually had a lot of time for sys-adin stuff.

Questions you need to ask yourself -

  • How much have we invested into the business?
  • How many customers/people would my actions affect?
  • Can I run the business alone? If not, then the decision is pretty clear.
  • Is the business enjoyable, or is it a pain?
  • Can I find anyone who is able to help, if only temporarily?
For my own situation, I have put waaay too much into this company to give up... We've been at this for two years, and we are just becoming profitable. While I am near the cracking point stress-wise, my friends have been a great help. I hope you have some good friends that can help you out.

hire a virtual assistant (none / 0) (#8)
by braman on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 03:54:04 PM EST

This may not work for you, but it might be worth looking into. Virtual assistants aren't cheap, but they can handle most of the "hassle" work that a small business deals with, and that frees up your time. There are a million out there. One that I've heard of in New England is: http://www.sbsne.com/

Good luck! -db

5. Talk to your clients and hang in there (5.00 / 3) (#9)
by error 404 on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 04:37:39 PM EST

Your contractor is due back in a week. And if you can contact him, maybe sooner.

At that point, your company will be back to 2/3 staff.

Meanwhile, don't panic, don't do anything rash. Your 29 year old partner is down with a heart attack - you must be freaked. Dealing with mortality and surprise and fear along with the sudden increase in workload. This is not a time for drastic decisions.

So, you contact all your clients and let them know what's up. This is a big, fat, hairy deal, and most of them will understand and work with you.

Reprioritize the work in progress, don't accept any new work. Find out what's critical to each client and what can get done next week or the week after. Outsource anything you can. Get creative - call in favors - draft your friends, SO, kids, pets... Even if they can't really help, you can probably use the emotional support, and (trust me on this) your support network feels better when it gets a little use. If you don't have a support network, get one as soon as this crisis is over, or you will die. Medical fact.

Next week, when the contractor is back in house and you have the drop-dead critical stuff up to a survivable state, get enough rest to clear your head, and decide what to do next. You will have more information at that point.
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

Re: 5. Talk to your clients and hang in there (none / 0) (#18)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 09:21:11 AM EST

+1, Insightful

[ Parent ]
Be honest with your clients! (3.50 / 2) (#10)
by h0tr0d on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 05:51:25 PM EST

Just be honest with your clients and let them know what's going on. I've been in a similar situation twice now and both times the clients were very understanding. Not always happy, but understanding. So to express our appreciation for their patience and understanding during our time of crisis we made sure that they got a little more than they had bargained for later on. And then when you can get things back to normal take some time to edit that web site. It needs a lot of cleaning up. Maybe then you can attract some more clients and make up for whatever has been lost during your partners absence.

-- It appears that my spleeing chucker isn't working again.

Close the biz (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by scott-thomason on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 08:51:27 PM EST

If this anything but the most "minor" of heart attacks, my advice is to close the business (or sell it if that's easily accomplished). I've had several businesses, and I can tell you that it's a damn load of work to run one, especially coming into it the way you have. Let your day job worry about all the administrative and infrastructural issues. Concentrate on your partner. You can always make more money later; you can't make more time. ---scott

Advice. (none / 0) (#14)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 03:16:44 AM EST

I sympathize with your situation; be honest with your clients, make the best of it... however.. I've seen many a busienss go down for this same reason. Husband and wife restaurant.. wife hurt her back badly.. now wife can't work, puts the place under. Insurance! If you have a business, you should both be insuring each other, in case something like this happens!

Quit a job (none / 0) (#15)
by Div0 on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 05:36:33 AM EST

Well, I had a look on your site, and well, to be honest you look just like any
other small computer business of which there are 100,000s. I'm not unsympathetic
to your problems, but you don't even do this busniess full time. Considering
the sorts of stuff you do ( so you don't have large amounts of capital invested ) ,
if you really can't afford the time you should pack up either the business or
your day job. The other thing to remember is that if you clients are happy,
they are happy with you personnally and not the busniess name, so you
should be able to restart later and stand a fair chance of regaining you clients.

Of course you say your contractor is back in a week. So it's probably worth
the hassle of just hanging in there if you are seeing a decent income from
your clients.

You can't buy qualtity of life.

-- nothing funny here.
Re: Quit a job (none / 0) (#23)
by cable on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 04:26:11 PM EST

I am going to do what I can, and see how the partner recovers and the contractor should be back soon. I am being honest with the clients, and telling them the situation. I had a partner and contractor so I wouldn't have to do all the work and work what I could and then eventually when the business starts earning enough, quit my current job to do the business full-time. Just that I still have obligations to my current full-time employer and can't quit right now. Maybe in a year or two when my contract needs renewed?

Only you, can help prevent Neb Rage!
[ Parent ]
You could always... (none / 0) (#17)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 09:12:57 AM EST

....Spend less time posting to & reading from k5!!

Re: You could always... (none / 0) (#22)
by cable on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 04:22:15 PM EST

I don't spend that much time. But I do see your point.

Only you, can help prevent Neb Rage!
[ Parent ]
No hits....... (1.00 / 1) (#19)
by Shoddy on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 12:39:07 PM EST

I see from your web site that you have only recieved 3300 hits on your web site since 01 01 99. I am not surprised that you are going bust. Ever thought of leaving home and chilling for a while. Copenhagen is a great place for that. Love peace and happiness to you. Stuart
NT = Nuisance Technology !
Re: No hits....... (none / 0) (#21)
by cable on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 04:21:03 PM EST

Most of our clients we get from word of mouth. Since we are small, we don't need a large amount of clients as long as we keep the current clients happy. This means we get a lot of repeat business. While our pages are on most major search engines, most of the views come from an address printed on a business card that we hand out to our clients or potential clients.

We are not looking to become the next Amazon.com and get a bazillion hits, we are looking to provide quality over quanity and that "hand holding" that smaller clients want for customized services.

Only you, can help prevent Neb Rage!
[ Parent ]
Re: No hits....... (none / 0) (#25)
by Da Unicorn on Sun Jul 02, 2000 at 10:08:51 AM EST

I must agree with your philosophy that "more" is not necessarily "better". I believe in quality before quantity and my business is not growing very fast because I care more about providing good services over grabbing a bigger piece of the pie. I don't think money is the most important aspect of a business.

I guess I'm still just stuck in the 60's.

Yeah, I know I'm a dinosaur and likely to suffer the same fate they did. I don't care because I sleep well at night knowing my customers get what they pay for and they are happy with my services.

The customers I get who leave my bigger competitors generally have the same complaint(s). Things like "Their service was good _when_ you could talk to a real human, and hopefully the same one" Being a one man shop I talk to the customer myself and there is none of the hassle of a customer trying to work out a problem with a string of tech support drones.

Most people want one on one service and I don't know anyone who actually thinks getting a voice mail or automated system is preferable to talking to a person. Those are just ways for the provider of services to save $$ and generally don't provide an increase in the level of service.

Just my $.02

Da Unicorn

[ Parent ]
Succession plans (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by HMV on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 01:31:36 PM EST

First, sympathies and best wishes for a quick recovery to your partner. Hopefully others and even yourself in future businesses can take something away from what happened to you.

In your specific case, I'd first satisfy existing obligations to clients...if you start off on your own, there's nothing worse than leaving potential carryover customers dangling. Then evaluate your partner's health...if he's recovering and able to think clearly within a week or two, what does he want to do? If he's out of the picture, and you love what you do well, that's got to be your way however you can make it work.

It may be a bit off-topic and a little too late in this case, but as soon as any venture goes beyond a proprietorship to a partnership or larger, succession and contingency plans are vital for the very reason of this post: "What happens when you're gone?". A lot can be at stake. Think about the Linux kernel...what would happen to an entire operating system if tomorrow (God forbid) Linus goes tango-uniform?

Consider it a will for your business, and it needn't be only limited to medical/life issues. What happens when your building is flooded and unusable or your data is lost in a fire? You mean you didn't have an off-site data backup?

Insurance and contingency planning is much like securing your network. It's distracting to the day-to-day operation of what you do, but it's so necessary, you're never finished with it if you don't want one unforeseen event taking you down, and for a large enough company it may be worth your while to contract an expert to take care of the 'distraction'.

What to do when your only partner can't work? | 25 comments (18 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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