Learn from experience, the experience of others.
This is one thing that I wish that I had really done properly right from the beginning. You don’t have to learn the hard way.
I want to tell you all about the pitfalls and problems of getting involved in a partnership in Taiwan. One thing I want to make very clear is that I am not bitter, angry, or hostile to my partner at all. There are things that I should have done, but didn’t, that made my currect situation exactly what it is.
First let me outline my position for you.
Over a year ago, almost a year and a half, myself and a Taiwanese person opened a buxiban. Previously that Taiwanese (I use the term Taiwanese only to show that the person is a Taiwan ID holder and not a spouse as is the case in many situations - hereafter to be refered to as the partner) partner was my employer, and in one position that I hold apart from the buxiban, still is.
We opened with him putting up the capital so we could open big and not struggle, and I came up with the labor end of the deal. Ok, so that is cool, so I thought. While the school lost money I never had to be out of pocket and could take home an ok salary for myself. However, the hours were brutal, I worked for him from 8:30am to 4pm and worked “with” him from 4pm to 9pm, infact I still do. That was my decision. Only, now I have worked myself into a position where I cannot leave either position without leaving both. I have become a neccessary part of the furniture.
Point one - Make sure you lay out exactly how many hours you are going to put in as part of your share of the workload. Ownership entails alot of work and little rest, but there is no point working yourself into an early grave.
Point two - If your work is split between several places have a plan for getting it all under one roof as soon as possible. Or, be able to delegate.
I went on like this for a long time, my health was failing, I was getting thinner, and never spending enough time with my family. Could never make time for exercise, not even an hour or two off to take care of myself.
- Point three - Make sure that you are given, or take, the ability to have control over your time. Don’t allow things to be so dependant on you that you have no time to look after yourself. Family is important, if you neglect them and the work dies, well, you may have nothing (thank goodness I have my family).
My position basically entitles me to profit share as a partner, however, the profits that I am entitled to do not make it entirely worthwhile. As it is, I develop the school, control the curriculum, manage advertising, well… manage the place.
I took on a local teacher manager to help out with the parents and manage the local staff. This was great in being able to understand more clearly what the parents wanted and give them what we could. However, too many chiefs and not enough …
*Point 4 - Make sure that as a partner you have a say in everything. Don’t give away too much power.
Giving away power in the wrong areas creates problems and division. Make sure that you retain the final say. Listen to others, value their opinions, allow contribution (welcome it), just make sure that you are still at the wheel with control of the gas and the brake.
*Point 5 - You will not have important documents in your name. You will still need someone with a Taiwanese ID. That entitles them, in many ways, perhaps in their mind, to a huge say on the way things are run. It is their name at risk. However, make sure from the very beginning that, if you are doing the work and running things, that the final say is largely yours on day to day business.
Why do I say this? Once, one of the local staff hit a kid with a ruler, in plain view, in the office - the ruler broke on the childs hand. To me, that is an instant fireable act. There is no coming back from that. However, because we were short of local teachers my desire to fire was overturned. I understand the issue, but the kind of message that this sends out to other staff is wrong, “I can get away with anything as long as you need me”. I don’t think I need anyone that much.
To sum things up…
The best situation, the ideal situation, is to be in a position where all the BIG decisions are yours to make. In Taiwan there is little protection that can be offered to you unless you have a well written contract (mine isn’t BTW). Try not to work with someone who has power over other areas of your life as far as finance is concerned (the bulk of my income comes from when I work “for” my partner and not “with” him). Money is power, and when someone controlls your finances, he or she controlls you.
Money is not the be all and end all.
My advice is as follows.
Save lots of money. If your wife is qualified for a buxiban licence, use her name. If not, find a local that will take a back seat, have a great lawyer and a great contract, make everything clear from the beginning and how things will work out in the future. Open a school yourself.
The result of my situation leaves me loving what I do, but feeling the need to get out and find something else to do that will allow me to have more control of my time and finances. At the moment I am “quietly” looking around at opportunities, although I keep working away at making my currect school better and bigger. I know I am a success, but what is the cost.
Don’t be like the British Royal Family, being called “King” but having limited (or in their case “NO”) power.