Small business assistance
two businessmen doing a handshake for a partnership

4 Types of Business Partnerships and How to Choose the Best One

Understanding the different types of business partnerships can be a game-changer for entrepreneurs.

Choosing the right partnership structure is essential to enable growth and success. However, picking the wrong one could lead to challenges and disputes.

In the world of entrepreneurship, knowledge is power. That’s why it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with various business partnerships.

Gaining insight into the different types of business alliances will enable you to make decisions that align with your small business objectives and ambitions.

General Partnerships

In business structures, a general partnership is an arrangement where two or more individuals come together to manage and operate a company. This partnership agreement gives each partner equal rights in controlling the enterprise, with every person’s financial stake contributing capital.

A Few Aspects of General Partnerships

One aspect that defines general partnerships is shared profit and loss distribution among partners. A formal partnership agreement outlining these distributions can prevent disputes regarding revenue sharing or responsibility for debts.

Liability is another aspect to consider. In this structure, all partners have unlimited personal liability for any debts incurred by the firm – meaning if your business incurs legal liabilities or significant debt beyond its capacity to pay back from assets alone, you could be held personally responsible.

Risks vs Benefits: The Balancing Act

While forming a general partnership might seem appealing due to ease-of-setup benefits over corporations (which require extensive paperwork), it also comes with risks such as unlimited liability for all involved parties. For instance, decisions leading to substantial debts made without consultation may fall on every member within the group, regardless of whether they agreed upon said decision beforehand or not.

Navigating Through Potential Pitfalls

To avoid potential pitfalls associated with forming a general partnership, all parties must draft an official written agreement before officially launching their new venture under the law. It’s essential to lay out definite directives about equity divisions, job roles, and duties among the team members before officially launching their business under the law to avoid any unforeseen issues that could arise during operation now or in the future.

Key Takeaway:

In a general partnership, all partners share equal rights, profits, losses, and unlimited liability. While easy to set up compared to corporations, it carries risks like personal responsibility for debts. To avoid surprises or disputes, draft an official agreement outlining ownership percentages and responsibilities before launching your venture.

Limited Liability Company (LLC): A Hybrid Business Structure

The world of business entities is vast and varied, each offering unique benefits. Among these structures, the Limited Liability Company or LLC is a hybrid model combining elements from partnerships and corporations.

Advantages: The Best of Both Worlds?

An LLC’s most significant advantage lies in the limited liability protection it provides for its owners. In the event of accumulating debts or legal liabilities, personal assets will remain protected as only the investments made within the company can be utilized to settle such obligations.

Beyond this crucial safety net, another benefit is pass-through taxation – profits earned by your business get taxed once on individual income tax returns, avoiding double taxation, which usually burdens corporations.

Navigating the Formation Process

Forming an LLC is simple but does require attention to detail. The first step involves filing Articles of Organization with the state’s Secretary’s office and the required fees. These articles should include essential information about your enterprise: name, address, duration (if not perpetual), the purpose behind forming it, and names plus addresses of all initial members involved.

A critical part of the formation process also includes drafting a formal Operating Agreement, even though most states still need to mandate a formally filed one. It serves a vital role in outlining how operations will run, the percentage interests among members, the rights and responsibilities they hold, and the allocation procedures regarding profits and losses, etcetera, thereby serving as a permanent record within the firm’s archive.

Ongoing Requirements

You must fulfill specific ongoing requirements to maintain your status as a separate legal entity from its owners and enjoy the benefits of being a registered business. These include: 

  1. meeting deadlines for filing annual reports
  2. paying taxes promptly
  3. obtaining any necessary licenses for your industry

Failure to comply with these obligations could have negative consequences for your business.

Key Takeaway:

An LLC offers a sweet spot for small businesses, merging the limited liability protection of corporations with pass-through taxation benefits of partnerships. However, it’s not all smooth sailing – forming and maintaining an LLC requires meticulous attention to detail, from filing Articles of Organization to meeting annual report deadlines.

The Corporation Business Structure

The concept of a corporation structure for your business might seem complex, but it’s simply an independent legal entity registered by the state. This formal business structure separates owners (shareholders) from their businesses, offering them limited liability protection. Even if the corporation faces debts, shareholders’ assets remain protected.

Corporation Formation Process

You must file Articles of Incorporation within your operating state’s Secretary’s office to set up a corporation. These documents essentially serve as permanent records containing essential details about your company, such as name and purpose.

  • Apart from filing these papers, forming a board of directors is another crucial aspect.
  • The officers are responsible for managing the daily operations, while the team in charge handles the significant decisions.

Limited Liability Protection Explained

In protecting shareholder interests regarding liabilities or debt incurred by the organization, only corporate-owned assets can be seized for settlement, not those personally owned by shareholders. Yet exceptions exist where courts may override this under certain circumstances, like knowingly committing fraud.

Tax Implications & Requirements for Corporations

  1. Sole proprietorships allow income reporting directly onto owners’ tax returns. In contrast, corporations pay taxes at corporate rates before any profits distributed among stakeholders get taxed again – often referred to as double taxation.
  2. An alternative option is S-Corporations, wherein profits pass through directly onto shareholders’ tax returns, avoiding double taxation but with specific eligibility requirements and restrictions.
  3. Certain expenses like salaries paid out can be deducted pre-tax, reducing overall taxable income.
  4. Shareholders cannot deduct losses incurred against their incomes, unlike partnership partners or LLC members.
Business StructureFormation CompexityLiability TaxationOwnership Structure
General PartnershipSimple, few formalitiesUnlimitedPass-throughEqual unless specified
Limited Partnership (LP)Moderate, more paperworkLimited for limited partners, unlimited for general partnersPass-throughGeneral and limited partners
Limited Liability Company (LLC)Moderate, requires articles of organizationLimitedPass-through or corporate, based on electionMembers with varying percentages
Complex, requires articles of incorporation, bylaws, etc.LimitedDouble taxation (corporate and then shareholder level)Shareholders with shares
S CorporationComplex, requires specific IRS electionLimitedPass-throughShareholders with restrictions on number/type
This table format provides a visual way to compare and contrast each business structure’s features quickly.


  1. Formation Complexity:
    • General Partnership: No need for formal documents, though advisable.
    • LP: More formal than a general partnership but less than a corporation. Requires a partnership agreement and state registration.
    • LLC: Need to file articles of organization and have an operating agreement.
    • C-Corp: Requires a more extensive setup including articles of incorporation, bylaws, and more.
    • S Corporation: While it is a corporation, an S Corp requires an additional IRS election.
  2. Liability:
    • General Partnership: All partners are equally liable.
    • LP: Limited partners have limited liability, while general partners have unlimited liability.
    • LLC & Corporations: Owners generally have limited liability up to their investment.
  3. Taxation:
    • Pass-through: Profits and losses pass directly to the owners and are only taxed at the individual level.
    • Double taxation (C-Corp): The corporation pays taxes on its profits, and then shareholders also pay taxes on any dividends they receive.
  4. Ownership Structure:
    • General Partnership: Typically, all partners share equal rights unless specified differently in an agreement.
    • LP: Different classes of partners with varying rights.
    • LLC: Can have varying membership interests.
    • Corporations: Ownership determined by shares.

Joint Ventures

A joint venture is a strategic alliance where two or more parties, typically businesses, form a partnership to share markets, intellectual property, assets, and profits. This type of business structure focuses on achieving specific objectives through shared resources.

The Basics of Joint Venture Structure

In a joint venture arrangement, each party controls its assets while sharing the generated profits. The degree of involvement can vary significantly depending on the terms outlined in the formal partnership agreement.

This unique setup allows participants to benefit from pooled resources without losing individual autonomy over operations. Potential partners must understand that joint ventures are not mergers, as they do not involve combining companies into one entity.

Rewards and Risks Associated with Joint Ventures

JV partnerships provide access to new markets and distribution networks, increase capacity for large projects or contracts, allow risk-sharing between partners, and offer additional resources such as specialized staff or technology. However, these types of business partnerships also come with inherent risks like miscommunication leading to conflicts, unequal levels of expertise resulting in unbalanced workloads, cultural clashes within organizations, etc.

Always ensure you fully comprehend what you’re entering before signing any legal business entities registered arrangements, including limited liability limited partnerships.

Navigating Legal Aspects

Before starting a joint venture project, outlining all aspects of your formal partnership agreement is important. Including details about the decision-making process, capital contributions (including amounts), exit strategies, and other relevant considerations will help minimize potential risks.

A general partner’s liability could impact a person’s financial stake, so getting professional advice when forming agreements is strongly recommended, especially considering this aspect.

Franchise: A Unique Business Partnership

The franchise model is a distinctive form of business partnership. The franchisor, who holds the trademarked brand name, and the franchisee, working under that same label, are both part of a franchise agreement.

Understanding Franchisors and Franchisees

In any franchise agreement, two key players are at play. The first is the franchisor that provides trademarks, products, or services along with processes and systems for operating their businesses successfully in exchange for fees from their partners.

The second player is known as a franchisee. They pay these fees to operate under an established name with proven operational methods, which allows them to start their venture on solid footing without bearing too much risk.

Gaining Advantage through Owning a Franchise

Owning a franchise can provide advantages over other business partnerships, such as general partnerships or LLCs, due to their brand recognition and established operational procedures. For instance, franchises often have access to existing customer bases due to strong brand recognition coupled with tried-and-tested operational procedures enhancing chances of success.

  1. Familiarity: Customers trust familiar brands, making it easier for new owners to get off the ground quickly.
  2. Ease-of-operations: The parent company’s comprehensive training programs help navigate the initial stages of setting up operations smoothly.

Navigating Challenges in Running a Franchise

Apart from its numerous benefits, running your branch within a more extensive network also presents unique challenges potential investors must consider before entering into agreements like these. Among the most common concerns is the need for more control over certain product line pricing structure aspects, typically made by corporate headquarters rather than the individual store owners.

This could limit creativity and flexibility when specifically catering to local market needs. Moreover, the upfront costs of acquiring the rights to use trademarked materials are substantial; thus, understanding all financial implications is crucial before signing the dotted lines.

Key Takeaway:

In the franchise model, franchisors provide franchisees with their brand and operating systems for a fee. This partnership offers advantages like solid brand recognition and proven procedures but also presents challenges such as limited control over pricing and substantial upfront costs. Understanding these implications is key before signing on the dotted line.

Small Business Assistance Tool for Choosing the Right Structure

Choosing the legal structure for your business can be confusing, but don’t worry! Our Small Business Assitance Tool has your back, connecting you to free and low-cost experts who can guide you in picking the best structure to set your business up for success.

Find the small business assistance you need to choose a business structure.

How to Access No-Cost to Low-Cost Services and Resources

Step #1: Go to our tool and enter your information. 

Step #2: Choose an organization to connect with an expert to talk about different types of business structures and the pros and cons of each one.

FAQs About the Types of Business Partnerships

The four types of partnerships include General Partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Corporation, and Joint Venture.

A General Partnership involves two or more individuals who come together to manage and operate a company, sharing equal rights, profits, and losses and bearing unlimited personal liability for any debts.

On the other hand, an LLC (Limited Liability Company) is a hybrid business structure that provides limited liability protection to its owners. This means that in case of debts or legal liabilities, the owners’ personal assets remain protected.

Additionally, an LLC enjoys pass-through taxation benefits, meaning the business’s profits are only taxed once on individual income tax returns.

A Joint Venture is a strategic alliance where two or more parties, often businesses, collaborate to share resources, markets, and profits for achieving specific objectives. It doesn’t involve merging companies; rather each party retains its autonomy over its operations. 

A Franchise, on the other hand, involves a franchisor (who holds the trademarked brand name) granting a franchisee the rights to operate under that brand name. The franchisee pays fees for this privilege and benefits from the franchisor’s established brand and operating systems.

The primary advantage of a corporation is that it’s an independent legal entity separate from its owners (shareholders). This provides limited liability protection, meaning shareholders’ personal assets remain protected even if the corporation faces debts. 

Corporations pay taxes at corporate rates, and the distributed profits among stakeholders can get taxed again (double taxation). However, an option for S-Corporations allows profits to pass directly to shareholders’ tax returns, avoiding double taxation.


Let’s review the type of business partnerships available to you. 

General partnership – where two or more minds come together to share profits, losses, responsibilities, and liabilities.

The hybrid type, LLC (limited liability company), merges elements from partnerships and corporations, offering limited liability protection yet enjoying pass-through taxation benefits.

A corporation is an independent entity owned by shareholders who are not personally liable for its debts or obligations but require more paperwork than other types of businesses.

Dipping our toes into temporary arrangements, we find joint ventures – pooling resources to achieve common goals without losing control over individual assets.

Lastly, we have franchises that operate under established brands in exchange for fees while receiving ongoing support from franchisors. 

Running a small business on a tight budget? We get it. At Microenterprise Collaborative, we connect you to affordable and free small business services to help you grow. You’re not alone – use our Small Business Assitance Tool to find the experts and resources you need.

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