how to find partners for consulting practices?

Any stories or examples about how people that start consulting practices together actually get together? I believe the spin-off is a pretty typical scenario, but I imagine in some cases people see an opportunity and then have to go hunting for their target partners. Any examples of that? Where would you start looking/how would you go about it?

Not exactly in the “consulting partner” mold, but my core portfolio has gotten me offers to partner up with a couple consulting firms (where a principal is retiring and replacement sought) and my blog has gotten me calls from people in unrelated fields exploring possibilities (e.g. Tuesday I spoke with a former PTC software engineer looking to develop a new modeling tool that would be a dream).

My blog has gotten me the most - and most interesting - queries. I suspect that as more industrial designers move into social computing networks, the partnerships will flourish.

My current company started out of a round of layoffs. Four of us who worked very well together at the “mother company”, with complimentary skills, joined forces to create a product development consultancy (see my web link if interested).

We are up in Vancouver, BC and felt that a combination of an upswing in the development market, a bit of a vacuum in Vancouver for turn-key design, and 6+ mos of severance made the right equation for a new start up. Time will tell.

We are finding, however, that Vancouver is NOT an industrial design savvy town. Starting to think it is time to try and leverage the Canadian Dollar down south.

i think the best way to put a working team together is to interview people based on either their philosophy or their individual skills.

if you choose philosophy, team members have to accept to go with a proven, well configured, predefined program.

you also need to have a good idea of how you want to move through the market/s ( ie being based on theoritecal and conceptual formulations, by virtue is tme cosuming in a real process situation therefore does not count as the right engine to move ideas. it’s more like a rearview mirror).

if you go by skills you just divide the work.


i prefer philosophy.


My network of partners is built up from people I’ve worked with and for, old school mates, and talented people I stumble across online who pique my interest. For those people who I haven’t had past experience working WITH, it’s a bit harder to gauge, but that’s where I start…

No partners. I work alone but I’ve made a point to foster relationships with clients where I’ve been able to sort of establish as if I’m part of thier team as a consultant and not so much an arms lenght approach. I’ve been at conventions where my designs for their products have been on display/for sale. I’ve let them know that I’m proud of the work and looking forward to promoting thier product as I’m walking the floor looking for no-competing clients. When a buyer from a big company that I might have spoken with earlier at the show walks over to thier booth and mentions my name, they know I’m thier team with thier best interests in mind. If they do well, I do well and get repeat business.

The best thing I feel that I can do is get a handfull of clients and become best friends. This also helps to gain credibility for future royalty opps. To be honest, thats what makes it worth while. I like naming my price on services but the only way you make money as a designer is with IP and royalties. Kind of like the music industry. You have to go on tour to sell albums and vice versa. No album sales, keep touring or make a new album. Going the consulting route has also allowed me to venture into different business opportunities as well. I haven’t hit the golden goose yet but I feel that I’m moving in a promising direction.

The best model for beginning in my view is to assemble a group of “foil” relationships. ( a fiol is your opposite in a relationship) As counter-intuitive as this may sound, three or four people who think differently, use different skills and compliment one and another, have a better chance of long term success than three people who are exactly alike.

Most of the examples I have observed included people who got fed up with their current employment/employer/corporation. However, I thought it would only be fair to mention that many of these new consultancy partnerships got fed up with EACH OTHER at some point as well. At some point, one or more partners decided they wanted out, and the business crumbled.

I know this isn’t really what you are asking about, but I would recommend putting careful thought and consideration into the TYPES of partnerships you might get yourself into…not just who to partner up with or where to find partners. I personally would be very hesitant to start a consultancy with joint ownership among 2 or more people.

Many of the posts in this discussion have referred to strategic partnerships as opposed to literal ones. I think that these are the best kind of partnerships to have. You get the benefits of partnership for the project, but still maintain ultimate control over business decisions.

I have worked for a couple of partnerships, one after the buyout from 2 partners to one and another through an expansion from four to five. Both were kind of grim because they lacked real alignment between the partners. Funny thing is that they were all pretty good designers and nice guys but because that lacked this synergy they always seemed to be either searching or pulling in different directions.

My suggestion is that you think about friends, associates, students, whoever you respect. then see how many share your philosophy about issues that matter to you. (I suggest considering things like: what is a good studio culture, how you view the client consultant relationship, what process do you believe in, and most critically: the value of design.) Even if you find this allignement be prepared to drift apart over time and have an exit strategy that protects the stayer and the leaver.

Also, remember that it is probable that once you are over about $250,000 a year someone will need to dedicate a pretty consistent chunk of time to business development.