Why I brought on a business partner

Ian Lurie

As of yesterday, Portent officially has a President and a CEO, and they’re separate people.

Why? Why would I bring in a business partner after all these years? That means I have to share the glory of running my own agency!

Ian takes a brief pause to laugh, but bites it back before the giggles turn hysterical.

It’s not that complicated

Actually, it’s a no-brainer:

I can’t do it alone. Just so you know, I was physically incapable of writing that until I turned 42.

First: For Portent to grow past its current great-but-there’s-more phase, we have to change our ways a bit. I can’t do that on my own. Steve, our new President, will move us in some great new directions culturally and from a marketing standpoint.

Second: I need more time to write, design training and work on the tools that can help us scale. Without those three things, I can’t teach the team, I can’t build our reputation, and I’ll probably lose whatever shreds of sanity still remain under my fingernails. Ironically, though, as we grow I get less time to do those things. With a great President, I can put my attention where it’s best for Portent.

Third: Where I’m a seething, swirling black hole of despair, Steve is a positive guy—an optimist. He brings diplomacy, media smarts and professionalism to balance my sometimes House-ish rants and my marketing nerdiness. We complement each other extremely well.

Finally: This remains my first job in management. I see the next 2-3 years in Portent’s life as key to whether this becomes a company that lives beyond its founder, or a company that works great as a salary earner and then goes away. The latter isn’t a bad thing, and I’d be totally content with it. But the former is the brass ring.

I’ll write more about the thought process that took me here tomorrow.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Congrats Ian. I really enjoy reading your blog and enjoyed your book. I would say that anything that frees up creativity or more time for writing & sharing is a good thing. My only question is if he will squash your toy tank breaks.

  2. Wow – big step there, Ian. Congratulations!
    I’m sure you’ll be posting a few things about the intricacies of not being “THE ONE AND ONLY BOSS” while your employees are still in the transition phase…
    May you live in interesting times. 🙂 Best of luck.

  3. I am an avid reader of CM, yet a quite one. I just wanted to say that Portent’s future seems really exciting at the moment. Stay awesome. Best regards.

  4. Steve is a great guy, you couldn’t have found a better person to bring in to help lead up any org.
    Congrats on a great kick-off for the 2012 new year.

  5. Ian, congratuations to you and Steve…
    I think you learned a little before the age of 42 that you cannot do things on your own. Though if I remember the early days of Portent, there were many times when you had too!
    However, I think you continue to have passion for collaboration and learning from others, especially your employee, that’s why Portent has grown, and has gotten to the point where you needed to hire Steve. I’m proud to say I once worked for Portent and with you Ian, looking forward to seeing what you and your team will achieve in the next 16 years.

  6. Congrats Ian! I think as a founder there are distinct elements of running an agency that you deeply enjoy and then there are things that are less enjoyable but need to get done. Bringing on a partner just makes sense when you get to do all the things you deeply love but still make sure your business operates run a well oiled machine. Out of curiosity, what was the tipping point in volume of clients/staff/overall hours worked before you decided to bring Steve onboard?

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