Is Becoming a Business Partner Right for You? Nnenna Opara, Esq. Weighs In.

Welcome to another episode of Launched & Legal with Dayna Thomas, Esq., entrepreneurship attorney and law firm coach. Launched & Legal is an Atlanta Small Business Network original series dedicated to bringing entrepreneurs and business owners the best practices and tips for strategizing, legalizing, and monetizing their ventures. Today, Dayna is joined by Nnenna Opara, Esq., to discuss the ins and outs of becoming a business partner.

Transcription: 

Dayna Thomas:
Hi everyone. I’m Dayna Thomas, Esquire and welcome to Launched & Legal, where it’s my mission to help you strategize, legalize and monetize your business. I’m so excited that you’re watching today because in every show I’ll be sharing the best practices and tips to take your business to the next level. Today we’ll be talking about becoming a business partner. As an entrepreneurship attorney myself, I’ve advised many clients who face a big decision. Whether they should quit their job and go into business with a partner, now that’s a very big decision. It means potentially giving up your security for an opportunity to build an amazing business, of course, with some very real risks.

Dayna Thomas:
Deciding to go into business with someone else could be the best decision you ever made for your career or one of the worst. So it’s important to make sure the situation is right for you. Here with me today is Nnenna Opara, Esquire. Nnenna faced this very scenario not too long ago when she decided to quit her job at an insurance defense firm to join none other than Dayna Thomas Law, my firm. This certainly wasn’t the easiest decision for Nnenna, who had never pursued entrepreneurship before, but she’s here today to talk to us about the factors she believes that’s important when deciding to become a business partner. Hey Nnenna, thank you so much for being here.

Nnenna Opara:
Hi, Dayna. Thanks for having me.

Dayna Thomas:
Absolutely. I’m so excited to talk about our journey, not just our journey, but your journey and your story. I feel like it’s an important story to tell, because in my career I’ve seen many clients, like I mentioned before, who were faced with an opportunity, but just couldn’t take that leap. And you did. So I’m really excited to hear your story today and let’s jump right into it. So tell us about your career before you decided to join my firm as managing partner.

Nnenna Opara:
Yes. So I was working at an insurance defense law firm for most of my career, I would say for the last seven years. And I would say that six months into working there, I knew that was not where I belonged. But I think that fear and then also security will kind of perpetuate you into something that you don’t necessarily want to be in anymore and you know, it’s not a right for it for you, but you continue to do it anyway. So I would say for the last seven years, I was a trial attorney for an insurance company litigating cases and I did the best that I could. And I think I did a great job, but I knew in the back of my mind that this was not what I was supposed to be doing.

Dayna Thomas:
Right. Wow. So what made you even consider joining my firm as managing partner?

Nnenna Opara:
There was a security in knowing that partnering with someone who is constantly filling your cup, who is constantly being a support system, it was when the opportunity presented itself to pair up with you, it was a match made heaven for me. I felt like you are the ying to my yang. We support each other. We did support each other before we even thought about becoming business partners. And for me, that was really important and that played a big role in why I decided to take the leap.

Dayna Thomas:
Absolutely. And just to give some background, Nnenna and I went to law school to together at Emory and we were very close and we talked about going into business together with a law firm. It was always something that I wanted to do and Nnenna had thought it through as well. But once we graduated, we went on different paths. I started my firm, Nnenna went into insurance defense. And once I was about five years in, I said, Nnenna, knock knock. What do you think about partnering up again? And, this is the time that we actually made it happen. So I know there were some concerns, right. There can be. What were some concerns that you had at that time and how did you address them?

Nnenna Opara:
So there are a ton of factors. I don’t want to necessarily call them concerns, but there were a ton of factors that were going through my mind. I think one of them was I come from a traditional family, right. But my parents are also business owners. And I knew that if I came to them and said, hey, I’m going to give up this really great job that has supported me for many, many years and go and do something else. I knew that that was something that would be difficult for them to accept, but that didn’t deter me from doing what it was that I knew was essentially what was going to make me happy. But it definitely was a factor that I had to think through and making sure that when I did finally come to my parents and to tell them, hey, this is my decision that I had all of the questions answered that I knew they would ask me.

Dayna Thomas:
Preparation.

Nnenna Opara:
So that’s one of the- Absolutely, I mean, that’s in everything, but definitely preparation and making sure that I crossed my Ts and dotted my I’s. And also that I knew why I was doing this and what I was doing this for. And for me, it was peace of mind. That was the other thing that I really considered when taking the leap. I told you before that I was unhappy for most of the seven years that I was practicing. And it was to the point where it was anxiety going to sleep. It was anxiety waking up. And it wasn’t healthy for me. I started developing having panic attacks. Yeah. And I knew what it was stemming from. It was stemming from the stress that was coming from the job. It was stemming from, yes I still am going to put 110% into what it was that I was doing.

Nnenna Opara:
But for me, it was also about trying to reconcile, this is not your purpose, but you still have to do it because you made this commitment. And I think that when your purpose and what you believe it is that you are supposed to be doing, like when they don’t match, that’s when you start having all of this anxiety like I have. So for me, peace of mind is something it’s priceless. Right? It’s something that you can’t put a dollar amount on it and you can’t get back that time. So it was very important for me to have peace of mind in my job. And I knew at the space that I was currently in that I was not receiving that.

Dayna Thomas:
That is so true. Something we had talked about was everyone wants peace, right. But does everyone pursue peace? Right? There’s a difference between wanting peace and pursuing peace and you made that decision to pursue peace. And sometimes we think about peace just in our personal life, but our careers, our work is a huge part of what creates or helps to create peace in our lives. So that’s a really, really great point.

Nnenna Opara:
Absolutely. And you’re at your job probably more than you are doing anything else in life. So you might as well be happy with doing what you’re doing. And for me, I reconciled that with myself and that’s what made the decision easier. Right? So additional factors, but that to me was a major one. I wanted to make sure that I was happy in where I was going and what I was doing. And who I was working with.

Dayna Thomas:
So let’s just lay the foundation here. I feel like you’re touching on some really key points. So let’s go into that. What are the factors that you think are really important for someone who is considering leaving their job in order to become a business partner, join someone else’s business? So let’s go ahead and name them and feel free to tell us a little bit more through your story.

Nnenna Opara:
So I think it’s, you really have to know the person that you’re going into business with. Are you putting in that same effort? Are you willing to put in that same effort? And then it’s, do you know this person well enough to say that I trust you 100% going into this? Because going into business, I mean, it’s like a marriage.

Dayna Thomas:
It is absolutely.

Nnenna Opara:
And if you’re not putting 100% into it, then it’s not going to work. You just have to make that commitment to each other.

Dayna Thomas:
Yeah. I was going to just piggyback off of that. So number one, you have to know that person, right. In my opinion, if it’s someone that just presented to you a business idea and it sounds great, but you have no idea who that person is, that is really risky. As Nnenna mentioned, it really is like a marriage, having a business partner. So the fact that we had a relationship level of trust, many years of knowing each other, then that really helps with your decision. So that makes sense.

Nnenna Opara:
Right. I almost compare it to, there’s a difference between investing and gambling, right? Gambling is kind of going into something blindly and just shooting your cards and seeing what’s going to happen. And I feel like investment is that you’ve done your research and you’ve put in the time to really understand what is this business and what is it going to do for me? And then you put your money in there. So it’s a thoughtful process versus you just saying, hey, this kind of looks good. Let me throw my money here. So that’s kind of how I look at it. You don’t want to gamble. You want to invest.

Dayna Thomas:
That’s right.

Nnenna Opara:
And that’s what you need to invest in your business.

Dayna Thomas:
I love it. Give us another factor.

Nnenna Opara:
Okay. Awesome. For me, freedom is really important. So Dayna, you know this, but I am an avid traveler. Traveling to me is my therapy. And I would say in some of the jobs that I had previously, it’s difficult to do that, right? Because you have two weeks of PTO, paid time off. And that’s all great, but at the same time, if you’re not really able to unplug, then that time off really isn’t time off. And so I was experiencing that where, yes I said, I’m going to be out for this week and I turned on my automatic email saying, hey, vacation mode. But I was still getting emails. I was still getting phone calls from some of my legal assistants who were like, hey, so and so was complaining about this. And even though you’re out, they want you to do it. So there’s the politics involved in firm life, right? And for me, it’s like, you may ignore this email, but how does that play in the politics?

Dayna Thomas:
It’s going to have some consequences.

Nnenna Opara:
Exactly. So for me, that was an issue because I wasn’t able to really unplug and really exercise the freedom that I knew I had technically, right, but didn’t necessarily practice because of the nature of the job. So for me, kind of coming into this partnership, you understand that that’s important to me. It’s not just, Hey, let me hop on a plane and unplug, this is a part of my identity. And so I think that again goes back to knowing who you’re doing business with, right. So I’m going to be gone, but you also know I’m committed, right. And I mean, currently right now I’m out of the country, but I’m still able to unplug and have that freedom to work and operate the way that I need.

Dayna Thomas:
And that’s one distinction that you made is that even when you do travel, it’s a difference between traveling as an employee and you’re really looking for that break. But you’re still getting emails and it doesn’t feel good, versus traveling when you’re really invested and love your work and it doesn’t feel like work. So if you do have to respond to something, it’s totally fine. So it does make a big difference. I get what you mean.

Nnenna Opara:
So yeah. Freedom is super important for me. And I know for a lot of people too, but true and absolute freedom in your job is super important.

Dayna Thomas:
Awesome. Any other factors for us?

Nnenna Opara:
Definitely. So it kind of touches to the freedom portion, but it’s establishing boundaries, right? So I talked about my job, hey, I’m going to be out. I have this email, but because of the politics, you don’t really have that boundary to say I’m unavailable. And for me kind of going, starting a new business, and kind of going into entrepreneurship, I really am able to do that. I’m able to establish those boundaries. Again, I’m one of those people, I’m willing to work hard and I’m willing to put in the elbow grease and the blood, sweat, and tears into everything that I’m doing. But it’s also important for me to create boundaries where, if I’m going to be out or if I’m going to do something, obviously communicate that, but make sure that those boundaries are still being upheld and respected. And when you’re working with someone who again, understands the importance of those boundaries that you’ve put up, then you’re able to really just kind of flow freely and effectively.

Dayna Thomas:
Absolutely.

Nnenna Opara:
So that was important to me.

Dayna Thomas:
I’ve always believed in work life balance. I think that as entrepreneurs, of course, we have grind season very often, but it can’t be grind season all the time. Boundaries are very important. Work life balance is very important, turning your brain off so that you can enjoy your family or your friends or the things that you love is very important. So for the entrepreneurs out there, the partners out there definitely look out for each other. Make sure there is some type of work life balance within your system of work, because you can’t just work, work, work all the time and think that’s what being an entrepreneur is about. It is about hard work. It is about work ethic, but it’s also about creating a legacy, creating a life that you love, right? Building a business around your lifestyle instead of a lifestyle around your business, which makes a big difference. So I love that you’re touching on that work life balance part.

Nnenna Opara:
Absolutely. Another factor if I could throw in another one.

Dayna Thomas:
Absolutely.

Nnenna Opara:
Is trust. You have to trust your business partner. And I feel like, I’m talking about us Dayna, but I feel like if anything were to happen on my end, I know you got it 100%. And I know that you trust that if you have to go out or be out of commission for a little while, things are going to go the way they plan or the way that you planned them to go because I’m there. So it’s that unadulterated, that 100% true trust that is super important in a business relationship.

Dayna Thomas:
It sure is because honestly, it’s hard to determine who you would bring on as a business partner, especially starting the business on my own, or as for the entrepreneurs out there listening, if you started something from the ground up, that is your baby, right? But at the end of the day, you can’t do everything all the time, forever. There’s going to be a time where you really do want to step away from that business or enjoy other things or build your other businesses. And for me, bringing in a business partner like Nnenna as a managing partner, really helped me to be able to do that. But it really does require trust and that if I’m not there, she can handle it. And to me, that’s really a great way to help grow a business. So Nnenna, we really appreciate you. Is there any final advice you have to someone that is on the fence right now about whether they should take that leap and quit, or stay within their job for safety in order to pursue a business partnership?

Nnenna Opara:
Of course. I say, do it, do it scared, but just do it still. It’s never going to be the right time. There’s no such thing as a wrong time necessarily either. So I just say do it, if you’re scared, still do it and have fun.

Dayna Thomas:
I love that. And make sure you consider those factors that Nnenna mentioned for sure. Thank you so much Nnenna. I appreciate you and I’ll be talking to you soon.

Nnenna Opara:
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Dayna.

Dayna Thomas:
Well, I hope today’s show helps to educate and inspire you as you pursue your business goals. Be sure to share today’s show with someone who can benefit and visit myasbn.com and subscribe. If you have any questions or comments about today’s show, I would love to hear from you. Send me a message or comment on Instagram at Dayna Thomas Law. Remember to tune in next week and every week to make sure your business is launched and legal.


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