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Flighty business partners: how to go it alone

Last summer, Teddy George’s business partner Helen Jacobsen told her that she was leaving George Jacobsen, the professional outsourcing company they had founded together at the end of 2007.

It was a huge blow to George, who was dedicated to the new business. George Jacobsen had got off to a great start, quickly winning contracts with businesses in sectors from corporate finance to recruitment. The firm had also just received seed funding from boutique investment bank Spayne Lindsay.

George explains the business model: “We provide support services to SMEs and professional partnerships. We make it easier for our clients to do what they do best and operate more efficiently with cost certainty.”

But after just a few months of trading, Jacobsen announced that she wanted to leave.

George says, “Helen decided to go off and do something completely different – she was given an opportunity to teach university students and felt she had to take it. In life you have to do the things you want to do so I understand her decision and there’s no bitterness there at all. But at the time it was definitely a blow.

“We had spent a whole year planning our business before launching it," she continues. "We had extensively researched the market and put together our business plan. We incorporated at the end of 2007 and launched officially at the start of 2008.

“The business achieved success very quickly and we were able to pick up some wonderful clients. So when Helen said she wanted to leave after just seven months I was shocked.

“I actually couldn’t believe it at first but after a few moments I could see she was serious," she says. "It was painful at the time but I had to accept that she had an offer to pursue something which fulfilled her life’s ambition. But it turned out our ambitions were not aligned."

Nevertheless, George was determined that Jacobsen’s decision to leave the business wouldn’t rock her own belief and commitment to the company.

“We had backing and some wonderful clients so I always knew we had a great business," she says. "But running a company is a rollercoaster ride and it’s shocking how much one’s emotions can vary. Tiny triumphs make you feel euphoric while the smallest setbacks can be crushing.

“When Helen left there was a feeling of, ‘Oh my God! What does this mean for me It was a very unsettling time."

So, George decided to go it alone. Jacobsen resigned her shares in the business and there were no hard feelings. But George knew that she was not equipped to handle all the different sides of George Jacobsen.

“It’s important to be honest with oneself in business and admit your own strengths and weaknesses," she says. "I knew my strengths but I was also aware that there were areas of running a business which were not my forte. So I was clear that it would not be something I could do on my own and decided that I would seek to bring in a new partner.”

George began seeking recommendations and was eventually introduced to Melanie Simpson last year. The pair hit it off and Simpson became a partner in George Jacobsen in January of 2009.

George says, “We soon discovered that our skills complement one another’s perfectly. I come from a HR background while Mel has a great deal of experience of providing complex outsourcing solutions on a very large scale for blue chip companies both in the UK and throughout Europe.

“Not only do we get along, which is important, but we also have a similar ambition for the company. We both have exacting standards and have very high personal goals. It’s absolutely essential to have a business partner you can trust and I know I can do that with Mel. We’re both passionate about moving the company forward and building the business so it’s a very exciting time.”

Today, the young company is approaching a £0.5m turnover. And George has every faith in the firm’s future success with her new – and steadfast – business partner. Have you brought your business back from the brink. Tell us about it! Add a comment below.

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