Are you considering or in a business partnership? There can be some great benefits from being in a partnership, but many things have to be agreed upon and aligned for most to go well. Dr. Arianne Missimer had to go through a difficult break-up with a business partner, and in this episode, shares what she would do differently with her next partner. I, on the other hand, had a very successful partnership with Will Humphreys and share what went well for us.
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Do’s and Don’ts When Considering a Partnership with Arianne Missimer, DPT, LDN, RD
I have Dr. Arianne Missimer. She’s the Founder of The Movement Paradigm. She’s not just a physical therapist. She’s also a licensed nutritionist. We’re going to talk a little bit about partnerships. What we can do to make sure we have good partnerships but also question whether we should have partnerships. Arianne did an article for the IMPACT Magazine specifically regarding partnerships. Before we jump into that stuff, Arianne, please tell us a little bit about yourself and what got you to where you are in your professional life.
Thank you so much for having me on. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ll start with when I opened my first business, which was right after college. I opened a personal training studio. I started off as a 20% partner. It was an interesting start to my career. I was involved in fitness and nutrition. I was finishing my degree and internship in dietetics. Through that process, my brother passed away sadly right at the same time. When I first started working, I poured everything that I had into that first business. The partnership did not work out. I took over the business and had that ultimately for thirteen years. When I was working with all of these people in a fitness setting, athletes, geriatrics, people post rehab realized that so many people were coming to a fitness setting with pain and injury.
They had been to physical therapists before and they were coming out of physical therapy still in pain. It kick started my drive to want to pursue my doctorate in physical therapy. I did that. I had this plan, this vision of opening up a multi-disciplinary practice because I was so involved in fitness and nutrition. I had a massage therapist sprinting and all of those things where as soon as I get out of PT school, that’s what I’m going to do. I was offered a job in an outpatient clinic. I graciously took it as “I’m going to work here for a year, get some experience,” which everyone told me to do. I did that. Several years later, I was running my business as well as working as a physical therapist and a clinic director at an outpatient clinic.
Fast forward, I ended up getting cancer myself. It was right before my wedding a few years ago. At that time, I sold the business. I stayed where I was at the outpatient clinic, which was the best decision I could’ve made. Afterwards, I realized that I had so much more to offer. I wanted to offer people this more integrative perspective on their health and be able to look at things through mindset, nutrition and movement. That led me to where I am, which is I own an integrative health center. What we focus on is trying to get to the root of people’s problems and look at it through a functional medicine lens.
In your clinic, do you have other dieticians or other physical therapists with a similar background?
I have one physical therapist working with me. I’m training her in this functional medicine approach. I also have other practitioners in the building. We have psychology bodywork as well as personal training.
Congratulations on a number of levels for succeeding in life in general. That’s great. Let’s talk a little bit about the partnership. That’s what your article was about. Before we got together on this interview, I thought it was cool. I’m coming from a successful partnership with my partner, Will Humphreys. We have worked together for several years now. You’re coming from one that was dysfunctional. We can compare and contrast what it takes to be in a partnership. Tell us a little bit about you. Maybe we can start from where you were with the article or we can start anywhere else you want to. Tell us about what you are coming away from that considering other partnerships.
In me writing that article essentially for the readers is, what are you looking for in a partner? The thing is that I didn’t know at 22 years old and didn’t understand. My perspective is that I do want a partner. I am working towards that goal ultimately. I have had a pretty terrible experience in the past. Without getting into significant detail, I think that understanding someone’s values, their mission and the vision of your company is so vital. It was a new partnership that we didn’t even know any of those things. We didn’t know each other’s values. We didn’t know what the mission and vision was. We had it down on paper but we didn’t feel it in our blood. If you don’t have that strong foundation, then it’s hard be able to work together.
When I first started my PT practice, one of the things that you had said in your article is your company going to generate enough money for the two of you to be satisfied or something to that effect. When I first opened my physical therapy practice, I didn’t want to take on a partner because I didn’t want to give up half of very little that I was making in the very beginning. I knew I could bootstrap it. Essentially my wife was my partner. I was able to go along that route, but then as I got larger then I recognized the value of maybe having a partnership. That’s where my partner, Will and I went many years working together without engaging in full partnership.Understanding the values, mission, and vision of your company is so vital. Click To Tweet
What allowed us to do was get a sense of one another. Also, recognize that we did come from fairly similar backgrounds and share very similar values without necessarily expressing them. I would say that we, by chance, went into our partnership with some shared values and visions for our company. That’s huge. Sometimes I can be a topic that doesn’t feel necessary or might feel odd if you’re talking to someone new. What are your values? What is your mission for this? I don’t know why that feels uncomfortable for me to bring that up with someone I don’t know very well. I don’t know about you. It’s a fundamental question that you have to have if you’re considering a partner.
On top of that, the more that you’re around someone, so you had years to work together, you get to know someone on a personal level and a professional level, which is also so critical. You want to know about their families, what they like to do for fun and what’s important to them in their leagues. Ultimately all of those factors into you is, “Is this going to be a successful partnership or not?”
The great thing about my partnership with Will was we consider each other best friends. I can’t imagine. Probably your relationship with your partner might have gotten to this point dreading, going to see your partner or talking to your partner. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but that’s what I hear from some partnerships that go awry.
In hindsight, 2020 is that we didn’t have a clear mission vision. That was one aspect. We didn’t have the same philosophy on how to run a business from customer service. I remember the time I was handwriting all of those invoices. Granted that was a long time ago but nonetheless, I didn’t know how to do anything. I was learning on the fly. We were trying to advertise, but we didn’t have a direction. We were handing out flyers on people’s houses. It wasn’t anything where we had a good plan. It was just like, “Let’s try this. Let’s try that.” Everything was a shot in the dark. I know that happens with new businesses at some level. I didn’t understand business at that age. I was expecting that I would be molded into it, but she didn’t understand business either. That was one of the biggest challenges.
What was your initial thinking going into the partnership? Why did you think that was going to work at that age?
I remember when it was presented to me. I had already wanted to be a physical therapist. That was my initial goal in high school. This physical therapist presented this opportunity to my then partner and said, “I have this great space for rent. I would love for you to be a part of it.” When he presented it to me, he said, “This is going to be a good opportunity. I’d like you to be 20% partner.” He knew how much I was bringing to the table at this little studio that we were working at. I was bringing nutrition programs in. I was so excited and ready to start my career. When he asked, I had to think about it. I said, “I know nothing about business. I know nothing about being a partner.” I thought, “This might be the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m going to do it.” That was the decision that I made, as simple as that. “Let’s do it.” There was no list. There’s nothing. Truthfully, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. It has launched my career in an amazing direction. I wouldn’t be where I am if that didn’t happen.
It sounds like you might have paid some tuition. You learned a lot. When you say you’re looking for a partner, what are you looking for based on that experience? What are some of the things that you’re doing so it does not go in that same direction?
The employee that I have is my prospect. At this point, I’m trying to develop a strong professional relationship but also personal as well. Analyze as time goes on what she may be able to bring to the table with or without buying in and all of the details, the nuances of evaluation. My goal is an exit strategy. I do plan to work for quite some time, but I do want to have a plan that I could ideally continue The Movement Paradigm and begin to phase out after I personally want to retire.
It seems like a lot of the owners I talked to who have some level of partnership in their companies. Honestly, the guys and women who tend to expand have some percentage of partners managing each clinic for them. Those partners tend to be homegrown. They’re built inside. What that does covers a lot of the stuff that we talked about initially. You were able to see if you align in purpose and values if the work ethic is similar once you can get a shared idea of what works well and what doesn’t, if you can do that over the course of 6, 12, 24-plus months, that can tell you if that partnership is going to go well or not.
One of the things I wrote in the article too is should you keep someone as an employee? Are they going to be bringing enough to the table that it is worth having them as a partner, whether they’re bringing a client list, they’re bringing marketing skills or it could be financial? What is going to change if you bring them on as a partner?
As you consider bringing them on, we could get into details about what that might entail in terms of them buying in, investing over time or something like that. In those details, there are so many different ways you can do. I don’t know about you, but I usually tell my coaching clients, “Talk to a lawyer. Talk to someone who knows how to structure those kinds of things because there are so many variables.” They could buy in. They could overtime gain some sweat equity. If they’re going to a new location, they get a percentage of profits. There are so many different ways to do that. That’s for sure.
As you’re looking forward, you’ve got a greater vision of what that partnership looks like. I’m assuming you’re having conversations with this employee about what their visions and goals are as well. The last thing you want to do is go into a conversation and say, “I want you to be a partner,” without having any previous conversations prior to that. They might have completely different plans, visions and dreams. What are some of your conversations that you’re having now?
We have a longer relationship. We worked together years ago. She was an athletic trainer. I encourage her to go back to PT school. We have a little bit of history, which is awesome. I told her that when I brought her on. I said, “I want to be completely transparent. What my goal is, I would love to have you as part of The Movement Paradigm but more importantly, I would love to consider partnership at some point. We would have to discuss this over a period of time. That would be my goal eventually.” That was very appealing to her. We have history, so I do know her very well. That was also very appealing to her in the sense that gives her a little bit of motivation as well.
Did she bring some skills that you’re looking for that maybe you lack or does she complement you in some ways?
She compliments me in so many ways. She could be a better fit for what I’m looking for. One, she is so dedicated to the patients that she serves, to the mission, vision. She understands it. She believes in it. She wants to make it better. She’s constantly helping or giving ideas. It’s genuine. It’s so authentic. That to me is the most important thing. She’s a newer clinician. She’s a pelvic health therapist. She’s beginning to develop her specialty even more. Where I want to go personally is developing more online programming so that I can have her maybe treating a little bit more and taking on more responsibility as I tried to gain a broader reach.
Looking at my partnership, not knowingly but what we recognized over time was that we did complement each other. Will so much more the visionary, me a little bit more tactical. We have different strengths in different areas. You don’t want someone, even though value aligned the same type of personality or same type of strengths because then you’re going to see things in one lens. Did you happen to use any personality tests or anything to see?
I use a lot of personality tests in the past, but I did not with her. One of the things you may think of is I am more of the visionary and the idea person all the time. I always have ideas. She’s great at the execution, the follow-through and the details. She’s very detailed-oriented. She’s very organized. I like my desk a little messy. She’s very good at the things that I’m not as good at, which is so important.
There are a number of tests out there for the audience who are reading. A good one is the wealth dynamics test. You can do a DISC or any number to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Especially if you’re going to have these conversations or trying to work together, maybe it’s good to recognize where the strengths are or weaknesses. A lot of those tests will tell you how to approach each other, how they like to be spoken to, how they do like to be given feedback or criticism. Some of that can help in the development of a respectful relationship building.
As you’re looking forward, I’m assuming this new partner is someone who has a shared vision. They bought into it initially in these ongoing conversations or things that she’s buying into and then she’s adding value to going forward to create a different picture. That’s what you want in a partner, someone who not just buys into your picture but can say, “What about this and that?” Paint even a brighter picture of the future.
You could appreciate this. It’s not necessarily my vision. I want it to be our vision. I don’t want the brand to be me, much bigger than me. Sometimes even in my last business, I always tried to create that, but I felt like a few employees over the years never saw that. Some of them were amazing with it and bought into like, “This is what we’re all about. This is what we’re doing. This is how we’re going to serve the community” and others along the way, not as much.
Looking back, how would you have handled the disconnect between you and the previous partner with issues that had come up? How would you have handled things differently?
What did happen is that it would result in me feeling frustrated, not so much an argument or anything like that, but it was me feeling frustrated in that. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to do it or how to change. At the same time, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with what we were doing and how we were handling things. One of the things that had always been so important to me is that everything is about the customer, making sure that they have an incredible experience from start to finish. There were things like poor communication, not calling clients back that didn’t seem like a big deal to him, but to me it was this almost moral, ethical dilemma.
Now I’ve worked very hard at communicating. If I don’t agree with something, I don’t think something is going the way that it should talking to someone. Before, my younger self, I would hold it in. I would get to a point where I’d get angry, which is hard. Everyone has to work on that at some level, but that’s something that if I feel like, “This isn’t going as well. Maybe she could improve on X, Y, Z,” I’ll address it right away instead of waiting and feeling uncomfortable about it.
That’s a sign of a good leader. You usually learn that over time. I’ve met very few people who are good at confronting the issue immediately, the situation or even soon thereafter that as we see things that are out of sync, addressing them rather quickly. Maybe even not emotionally saying, “Something’s wrong here. Let’s talk through it.” You have to address that quickly. That’s what we need to do as leaders in general. Anything else as you looked back on your experience from the past in that partnership where you would have said, “I wish I would’ve done this differently?”
I would say that I wish that I would’ve done my due diligence and researching partnership, business in general before I even jumped into begin with. It didn’t have to end pretty poorly. I don’t think it had to. It took me a while to get over that emotionally too, feeling like it was a failure that can happen. That’s probably the biggest thing. That’s why I even put in the article my goal, which is to think long and hard about do you need a partner? Do you want a partner? Why do you want a partner? Do you respect and trust this person? Try to do your due diligence to make sure that this is the direction that you want to go in or should go in.
One thing that we did, even though we did get along well and we had worked together a number of years, as we went into our partnership and we merged some of our clinics together, we hired the lawyer and dotted the I’s, crossed the T’s. He took us through the exit strategy if that partnership went south. We knew exactly what was going to happen if we were going to separate. We had come to agreement on those terms before we even got into the partnership. I highly recommend sit down and talk out what’s going to happen if you go through a divorce and you need to leave the state. Talk about the hard stuff. What if you get into drugs? I always say you because it’s not going to be me. What’s going to happen? How are we going to get out of this scenario?Everything is about the customer. Make sure that they have an incredible experience from start to finish. Click To Tweet
You hit on two things. That is a fantastic point. That is one of the other lessons. Thank you for reminding me. Make sure you have all of the proper legal work. I, of course, did not. There were drugs involved, not with me. That was one part of it. All of the money was taken out of the account. At the end, I also was left with nothing. It was legally and financially a disaster. It took so long to recoup and try to figure out even what the heck I was doing. I can’t agree more with you on that.
We did everything we can. If one of us wanted to buy the other out, we even talked about that scenario. If something comes up, how are we going to value the company? What is that going to look like? We also chose moderators. Many times going into partnership, it’s not recommended that you go 50/50. It is recommended that there’d be like a 51/49 somehow based on some lawyers that I’ve spoken to. If you are going to have a 50/50, make sure that you have someone delegated legally to break the tie. We both shared a couple of mentors that if we come to the table, we can’t agree. He wants to do something opposite of what I’m recommending and thinking we should do. It was labeled in our agreement that so and so is going to be the tiebreaker. It’s so valuable to have all that stuff laid out. A good lawyer is going to take you through all of that stuff.
We also figured out the valuation formula. You can go in valuating your company. It can take many different forms and formulations. We need to agree on how we were going to value the company and what formula we were going to use to say this is what it’s worth at that time. All of those things can prepare the way for comfort. You don’t have to think about later on like, “I’m in a bad situation. How do I get out of this?” We’ve already got a playbook. It tells us what to do. We have to follow that. We never had to do that. We got to a point eventually where we respected each other’s opinions. We eventually sold our clinics. It didn’t have to come to fruition, but it was so comforting to have all that stuff together. Anything else you want to share with us about partnerships as we’re wrapping up here or anything you want to recommend to the audience?
Wherever you are in your journey, make sure you take a long, hard look at where you are, but then also more broadly where you want to go. What is your vision for the future? However, you want to break that out 3, 5, 10 years. It should allow you to begin that process and valuation. This is the direction you want to go in or maybe it’s not at all, but at least you have a good understanding of where your goals are.
One of the more impactful books that I’ve read was Who Not How by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy. It’s a great one. I changed my mindset a lot. They use something called The Impact Filter, which helps you start with the end in mind. That was one of your key quotes in the article. What does success look like? What criteria are going to have to be in place in order for this partnership, in this situation to be “successful?” List out the criteria. If this is going to be successful, you have to check the box. As I’m talking to someone, I shared all those things with them. If I’m going to be a partner in this venture, then I have to blank. I have to see this. The partner is going to be doing that and I’m going to be doing this.
Surprisingly, I was hesitant to share that with him, but when I did, he gave it a lot more clarity. He said, “I can buy into that.” That was cool. The impact filter through Dan Sullivan’s book Who Not How has been helpful for me to be clear about what that end game looks like so that we both are clear about what is going to happen in the end. Tying it back to the article, that’s where you started. Start first with where do you want this to go. Bringing a partnership just because you complement each other’s skillset, initially that’s not enough. We’ve got to know exactly what a successful partnership looks like and get detailed about it.
To add one more thing, part of my vision is for it to continue on beyond me. That’s as you’re evaluating at you, but as the readers are evaluating their businesses and practices, you do want to think of that too. Is this something where it’s a stepping stone for your business, brand and philosophy to carry on with beyond you?
If your goal is to step away and the brand to continue self-generating business and growth, then it’s dishonest not to share that vision with others. We might hold back and thinking, “If I let them know that I don’t want to be around all the time, then I’m not pulling my fair share or pulling my weight.” There might be some fear behind not sharing, but you’re doing a disservice when you’re not sharing that because in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, “Who can I take advantage of so I can pull away?” They don’t know that’s coming. It’s so important that you share that, be open and honest about it. Arianne, thanks so much for taking the time. If people wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about your wellness concept and all the amazing stuff that you’re doing, how do they get in touch with you?
Thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate it.
Thank you so much, Nathan. I appreciate it.
About Arianne Missimer
Dr. Arianne Missimer is an award-winning Doctor of Physical Therapy, Registered Dietitian, Registered Yoga Teacher, and Mindfulness Educator. She is the Founder of the Movement Paradigm and holds numerous movement–based certifications.
She continues to strive for excellence and has received numerous awards for her contributions to the health field including: National Strength and Conditioning Association Sports Medicine Rehabilitation Specialist of the Year, American Dietetic Association Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year, University of Delaware Outstanding Alumni, Neumann University Physical Therapy Alumni award, Mainline Today Health Care Hero, and Mainline Today Power Women.
Dr. Missimer is a TEDX and keynote speaker, where she has addressed universities, conferences, Chambers of Commerce, colleges, summits and more. She also presents nationally and internationally in the areas of movement science, nutrition, and mindfulness. She is a Master Instructor for Evidence Based Fitness Academy (EBFA) Global and is a consultant for Penn Medicine.
As a cancer survivor, mover, athlete, and America Ninja Warrior competitor herself, she is dedicated to educating professionals and the community, presenting high quality keynote speeches, and helping you lead your best life through powerful dietary interventions, movement, sleep, and mindset reframing techniques to empower you to heal your body, alleviate inflammation, and live with vitality.
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