By now you probably know the opportunities offered by a joint venture. But setting one up the right way is a different story. This week, we’re giving you a list of questions to consider before you start a joint venture and some of the possible answers. Don’t miss this info-packed episode!
Topics we cover in this episode include:
- Foundational questions for your joint venture
- What are the performance goals and expectations of the joint venture?
- How will information sharing and ownership be handled?
- How will the joint venture projects be managed?
- What are the communication guidelines for the joint venture parties?
- How can the joint venture plan for the unexpected?
- How will the joint venture handle compliance and accounting?
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[00:00:00] Rob Williams: Welcome to the Contractor Success Forum. Today we’ve got questions to ask before starting a construction joint venture. I love the ideas of the joint ventures. We always formed these new companies and stuff and didn’t realize we could have done joint ventures in a lot of ways, and so many advantages.
But here on the Contractor Success Forum, we’re talking about this because we find ways to make your business more profitable and grow that business, that contracting business, for you. On the Contractor Success Forum.
And who is here to help us do that? We have Stephen Brown, McDaniel-Whitley Bonding and insurance agency, and Wade Carpenter, Carpenter and Company CPAs. And I’m Rob Williams authoring the Pumpkin Plan for Contractors, and IronGate Entrepreneurial support Systems.
So today, man, I love this subject. Construction joint ventures. And do you see these Stephen? I know, I know wade’s gonna chime in here a second. Do you see a lot of joint ventures in the bonding world?
[00:01:06] Stephen Brown: Absolutely. It’s a wonderful thing. When done right, they can be a real source of good income, learning, and growing your business. So yeah, joint ventures are way cool. Wade, you know, you brought up this topic for today. What got you so fired up about joint ventures lately?
[00:01:28] Wade Carpenter: Well, actually we did a podcast recently on finding a good joint venture partner and I put out some checklists on that on our website, and we actually got some really great response. And I also created a list of 50 items that you should consider when forming a joint venture.
And what I found was a lot of people were kind of getting an analysis paralysis thing. Like, oh, I’ve got all these things, and then so I was like, well, let’s develop it into a question and answer type thing. So we’ve broken all 50 questions down into 10 main categories and you may not think of all these, but some of these things you really should think about before you start, because as many joint ventures as go right, there are several that do go wrong. There are things that happen and you shouldn’t go in blindly.
But you also find a point where, you know, we need to figure this out and move on because you can’t take forever trying to put a joint venture together and where it never comes together. So.
[00:02:36] Rob Williams: Yeah.
[00:02:36] Stephen Brown: Sure. And we also did a podcast on the mentor protege joint venture program for federal contracting and how powerful that was in helping both parties get projects that they couldn’t ordinarily qualify for. And you know, we’ve talked before, Wade, about joint ventures. First of all, from a legal standpoint, there’s lots of ways to tie down a joint venture to protect yourself, even though you are joint and severely liable for the completion of whatever project that you do together. So you can protect yourself. That’s huge. There’s, there’s absolutely probably a hundred different joint venture forms to help you target exactly what you are bringing to the joint venture and what they’re bringing and how you’re gonna administer the joint venture. So we talked about that, and then we talked about picking your right joint venture partner, and that’s kind of what we were talking about now, Wade. You know, how do you find that perfect joint venture partner?
[00:03:40] Rob Williams: I’ll tell you one, one thing I wanna make sure we hit before we get to that is, it’s, why do we wanna do that right now? I think right now we are gonna need these more than anything else. From where, where you came from, all these contracts that are coming down. I thought about the discussion you brought up, Stephen, after your AGC meeting up in DC, about how there’s so much work out there that they can’t get the bids.
And I just had a concrete guy, roads and infrastructure type things, calling me. He’s got a 300% growth rate this year. Way to go CP! I’m not gonna say his real name. I’ll give you his initials because he is probably listening. And he’s down there and he’s got a 300% growth rate and we’re thinking about what is he gonna do for cash flow and stuff.
But there’s so much work out there and, and do you have to just turn all this work down? But this joint venture is, I think it’s gonna be huge, huge this year. So, and I know Wade, you had that concrete, I dunno if you wanna tell that story about the concrete guy that you know had that if you have a story you wanna tell.
[00:04:42] Wade Carpenter: I mean there, there’s a lot of stuff that, you know, Stephen kind of brought out in that one episode about the Infrastructure Act and some of those projects are finally starting to roll out, and there is a lot of work out there from what I see.
Foundational questions for your Joint Venture
[00:04:55] Wade Carpenter: But you know, I guess what Stephen was kind of rolling into is like, one of my first points is the foundational questions, those kind of things. Like how are we structuring this? You know, just asking the simple questions like, what’s the purpose of this joint venture? You know, what are we trying to accomplish? Now, most people are like, well, hey, we just wanna make some money and make good money. and A lot of times they are designed to be a little more of a short term type thing, but it could be, as Stephen mentioned, the mentor protege type thing where you got the small guy and we’re trying to grow into bigger jobs.
[00:05:32] Stephen Brown: Mm-hmm.
[00:05:33] Wade Carpenter: Does that make sense guys?
[00:05:34] Rob Williams: Yeah. Let me ask you this question, Wade. I know I’ve seen so many partnerships instead of joint ventures that they brought a partner in, just like say as an equity partner or, or they brought a partner. And they made him a partner in the whole business just because of one job they needed to get or just something. And I don’t think people realize that there’s another option to that.
[00:05:58] Wade Carpenter: Yeah, we’ve seen that too. And whether it’s, you know, MBE, WBE type stuff or, you know, several things that, you know, could get somebody a job or a relationship.
[00:06:10] Rob Williams: Yeah.
[00:06:11] Stephen Brown: Well, let’s talk about any project too, guys, that you’re looking at the specs and you say, man, I can really do this part of it great. And so and so can really do this part of the job great. And that’s 90% of the project. Why don’t we form a joint venture? I mean, that’s a way to get a higher margin on the work that you would’ve ordinarily been subbing out to someone else. That’s another reason.
[00:06:40] Rob Williams: Yeah. So, so listen ahead. I was gonna ask the question, well, explain what the difference between a joint venture and a partnership. I think people would actually use the word joint venture and, and think, oh yeah, we’ll do a joint venture, but that just meant they formed an llc, you know, and it wasn’t that.
So I think throughout this– we, had a company, maybe, I see the points coming up. People will figure out there is a difference between forming a new company and just using the word joint venture because it’s not really. And then doing a joint venture that’s formed as a joint venture.
[00:07:15] Stephen Brown: No, that’s a great point. You know, we’re referring to it as an entity. You know, a legal entity. There are partnerships which have certain lack of protection. Then there’s a joint venture that’s formed as a legal entity, and it can be formed between an LLC and a partnership. It can be formed by any two entities, but the joint venture itself is an entity.
[00:07:37] Wade Carpenter: Well, so again, people do use the term joint venture very loosely. And sometimes they will have an agreement where we’re gonna split profits, but they don’t actually do anything from an entity standpoint. And whether you do that or not, a lot of times if you don’t spell a lot of these things out, whether you’re forming an agreement or not, you know, you can end up with some hurt feelings and people mad at each other and lawsuits and stuff like that. So that’s part of the reason we talk about these things.
What are the performance goals and expectations of the joint venture?
[00:08:08] Wade Carpenter: So, kind of moving on to the next one, just, you know, the performance goals and expectations of the partners. You can have one partner drop the ball on one piece of something and wreck the whole project.
So there are several questions to ask here. Who’s gonna be responsible for what? What are the milestones that we’re supposed to hit? What happens if, you know, this happens? Is that making sense?
[00:08:33] Rob Williams: Oh yeah, that’s huge. And just putting it in writing sometimes, and maybe as an example. Because a lot of times I’ve tried to do this and we couldn’t exactly come up with it. I said, let’s just write a little example then, and let’s write some examples because we couldn’t think of the rules and sometimes examples, so at least you kind of know what the intent is. So that’s, that’s huge and that’s been a really big benefit for me as opposed to having just the bullet points, know.
[00:09:04] Stephen Brown: it means you’ve thought it out and you put it down on paper.
[00:09:09] Rob Williams: Yeah. Let’s show the example. Write out the calculations. This is this. Because how many times has one partner interpreted some words differently than this? Just, boy, I love having an example up front to see, because the words don’t go into our heads in the same way.
[00:09:28] Stephen Brown: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:29] Rob Williams: Like, oh, we’ll split the profit. Well, what the hell does that mean? You know, God, that could come out a million different ways.
[00:09:37] Wade Carpenter: Yeah, and actually you’re kind of jumping into other things I was gonna talk about.
[00:09:40] Rob Williams: I didn’t mean to jump, I–
[00:09:41] Wade Carpenter: No, it’s fine, honestly. Because you know, these are the things that we probably should be discussing and, you know, I recently went in a partnership with some people and there was a book and I don’t remember the author’s name, but it was called the Partner Charter or the Partnership Charter.
Yes. And it, it was a good book and made you think about a lot of things. That’s partly why I started thinking about this from a joint venture standpoint. But, y ou know what I have done with these checklists is actually we’ve, again, jumping ahead, what I found was asking the questions, people did get that analysis paralysis, like, I don’t know how to answer this.
So we actually put the checklist on the website where you can ask questions and there’s like five suggested answers. So we can talk about that later or put it in the show notes, but that is one of the things that people don’t know how to get started. And that’s part of my purpose for talking about this today.
So I know we probably got a lot more to go through on this one, but a lot of times, a partnership, most people don’t think of as– if you go into business with somebody, you don’t think there’s an end to it. And people should be thinking, you know, hey, what happens if something happens to one partner or another?
But with a joint venture, typically they are short. I mean, it could be one project they’re doing. It could be a few years. Stephen talked about the federal government contracting and the mentor protege, and I think it’s like six years is the maximum length or something. Do you remember Stephen?
[00:11:13] Stephen Brown: Mm-hmm. And there’s a three project limit. but you can always disband the joint venture and start a new one. But you’re right, you need to know when the joint venture’s gonna end at a time. And a lot of folks, what they do is they just take one project and they say it’s gonna end after that project. And you can always change it, but you know, the end of a project is easy to determine. End of a joint venture for legal purposes is something you have to consider.
[00:11:41] Wade Carpenter: Well it is, and you know, as you’re wrapping up a joint venture, I mean, you finish up the job, but there sometimes are assets on liabilities and how you’re gonna split those kind of things? So we don’t have time to go into a lot of detail on this.
How will information sharing and ownership be handled?
[00:11:53] Wade Carpenter: But the next one I wanna talk about, may sound a little weird, but information sharing and ownership of the information. When you have joint venture partners, two or more partners, and one of them does one type of contracting, the other one does another piece of the contract, but they’re not coordinating the information, it can be a disaster. They’ve gotta be able to communicate.
So part of this section where I’m talking through it, you really need to have a discussion with your partners on how are we gonna manage this job? How are we gonna share information? Because it is key to making sure you have a successful project.
[00:12:29] Rob Williams: So would you say that’s both job site and job information as well as financial information, and bookkeeping side too? Yeah.
[00:12:38] Wade Carpenter: I mean, I think about it a lot from the job costing standpoint because if you’ve got ex, we treat this as two different partners, two different jobs. And I’m doing the concrete part and somebody else is doing site work or something, you know.
They don’t coordinate things and they don’t know how they’re coming out overall, but they’ve got a total cap budget. They’re not, and they’re paying attention to their side of it. I’ve seen it happen many times. You just gotta treat it as if it is not separate books. It’s not like my job and your job.
[00:13:11] Stephen Brown: That’s right.
[00:13:12] Rob Williams: I tell you where I’m cringing on this, I’m just thinking of an example. I had a really wealthy partner on one thing and cash flow, one time. You know, it’s like the wealthy guy that’s got just tons of extra money sitting, is not gonna be thinking about the cash flow.
So who is running what and that that cash flow can like kill one of the partners, and the other one is fine because people don’t realize that everybody’s in a different boat, and that those cash flow projections, invoicing, receivable payable, all that kind of stuff, you gotta get that down upfront and share that. Because the terms that one guy has may not be the same terms as the other, and one may not be able to afford those terms. You know?
[00:13:54] Wade Carpenter: Exactly. Exactly. And that that is part of this.
How will the joint venture projects be managed?
[00:13:58] Wade Carpenter: The next part kind of goes hand in hand with what I said, but there are some other considerations. How are projects managed? Because, you know, if you treat it as like, hey, I’m doing my piece and somebody else is doing their piece.
[00:14:12] Stephen Brown: Who’s gonna manage?
[00:14:13] Wade Carpenter: Well, who’s gonna be managing it? Who’s sending out pay apps? Well, if we’re depending on each other to get these pay apps out, we’re never gonna get paid on time. If there’s not somebody that’s kind of like managing the whole thing, a lot of times you’ve gotta have somebody pull the whole thing together.
[00:14:31] Stephen Brown: Right, and the legal term is managing venturer. Who’s ultimately managing the joint venture? And it’s easy to come to an agreement on that. It becomes obvious as you break down the scope of the work. But like you said, guys, you know, cash flow may not be as important to one of the other parties and it may be a huge stumbling block to you.
And also I might add, Wade and Rob, that from a bonding standpoint, if there’s a bond required, you bid the job as a joint venture and the joint venture needs a bond, well, you know, your bond agent gets together with their bond agent and they plan on you sharing information with the company directly.
So, you know, I may not wanna share my information with you, Stephen, because you’re not my bond agent. I’ve got a bond agent. But you can share it with your, your bonding company and vice versa. And that’s usually the way that. A lot of times at a regional or a home office level, even.
[00:15:29] Rob Williams: That’s a great point, because I think a lot of people don’t go into these because they might be embarrassed or they don’t want to show the other person their financial situation. Almost every contractor I’ve ever talked to thinks that the rest of the world is looking at them like they have this great almighty thing.
And the reality is, you know, everybody’s balance sheet looks worse than they think the outside perceives of it. So they have this air that, oh, people think I have all this money. You know? And they may not really think that about you, but people are embarassed to get that out. So that’s a big stumbling block to go into these joint ventures and I hadn’t thought about that, Stephen. I didn’t actually realize that, that you could just go to the bonding agents.
[00:16:08] Stephen Brown: Hey, that’s one nice thing about our industry. We’ll let you know fairly quickly.
[00:16:12] Rob Williams: Yeah.
[00:16:13] Stephen Brown: –what we think, without hurting your feelings, hopefully, but just saying, no, this, this partnership isn’t gonna work out.
[00:16:19] Rob Williams: Okay. Well that’s so interesting. I didn’t know that.
[00:16:21] Stephen Brown: –to go in, we don’t have to go into details, but.
[00:16:24] Rob Williams: Okay, that’s great. That’s new. Something for me to learn.
[00:16:27] Wade Carpenter: Well, I mean, Rob, what you said is absolutely correct. I mean, everybody wants to project an image that we’re doing better than we are, and everybody thinks that the world is doing better than they they are.
[00:16:38] Rob Williams: I can think of a huge one that I turned down one time. One of my neighbors that I think is really wealthy, it was after the 2009 crisis, and I had another business, parts business. And he wanted to partner with me and he had a lot of experience from AutoZone and stuff. And I was kind of embarrassed of what my balance sheet looked like after we had taken that big hit in 2009.
And I was like, well, he’s gonna wanna put all this money in. And I’m thinking I had to be 50/50, too. I didn’t realize you can put the different things. So I, I just avoided him socially and it was a great opportunity that I missed and I turned down because I was embarrassed of where my balance sheet was at the time. And it really wasn’t that bad, but in my view it was, it was bad. So.
[00:17:22] Stephen Brown: Yeah. Good point, Rob. Good point.
What are the communication guidelines for the joint venture parties?
[00:17:24] Wade Carpenter: Okay. Well, I know we’re, I’m gonna kind of fly through a couple more of these real quick in the interest of time, but you know, along the same lines, communication guidelines between the parties. And I can just only give you a couple of real quick thoughts.
Sometimes you have a big general contractor that has everything paperless and they partner with a little guy and he still likes his old paper from, you know. But how you communicate, whether it’s trading invoices or letting you know what’s going on with a job, is a big factor in putting these together. And establishing that upfront is, can be huge.
How can the joint venture plan for the unexpected?
[00:18:00] Wade Carpenter: Okay, next one. Plan for the unexpected. Nobody anticipates any job going wrong, but just like any job, things can turn on you. I’ve had some where unfortunately, the job turned out to be a bust. Their subcontractors messed up. And one of the parties had some money, the other one had no money to bring to the table to finish the thing out.
That’s just a quick example, but when things go wrong, how are we gonna finish this out? What’s gonna be the expectations?
How will the joint venture handle legal details and risk management?
[00:18:33] Wade Carpenter: Obviously the legal details that we, we started on some of the stuff like how are we forming this and how are we splitting profits? Who’s controlling and that kind of stuff. Legal details. I don’t know, Stephen, you may want to chime in a little more on this one, but the risk management of a joint venture.
[00:18:50] Stephen Brown: Well, risk management. A lot of the times both parties bring their own insurance into play so they don’t get a separate joint venture insurance policy. But some do. There’s pros and cons of both of it, but one of the pros of, you know, the joint ventures, whatever claims happen under that joint venture, it is considered a separate entity. So if it’s an extremely risky job, you might wanna get separate insurance on the joint venture. But nevertheless, most of the times each partner brings their own insurance into play.
[00:19:25] Rob Williams: Don’t most members have different caps on their insurance?
[00:19:29] Stephen Brown: Yeah, yeah, you— usually the joint venture partners are only concerned about what insurance requirements the owners are requiring you to have. What limits, what types of coverages the owners want. So that’s all they care about.
But I would beg them to realize that there’s more to it when analyzing the risk than just what the owners are asking for. They don’t know. Half the owners still call general liability, public liability. That’s a term from the fifties. Come on. I mean, I–
[00:20:00] Rob Williams: I had–
[00:20:00] Stephen Brown: Just saying, I’m just saying, managing your risk is something that you really need to talk to your agent about in a joint venture. One agent or the other, if you have different agents, may wanna do the insurance policy for the joint venture and that might drive you crazy.
But you can always work it out where somebody puts a plan together and you split the commissions or whatever, if it’s a joint venture policy. But nevertheless, analyzing that risk and understanding, making sure you have those coverage in place is a key element of it.
[00:20:32] Rob Williams: Stephen, I wanna explain a term that I think a lot of our listeners won’t understand, that you just referred to. You referred to this thing, it’s it’s because you’re old. You’re really old and, and, and, fifties. Ok. Were you listeners out there? You don’t understand ,fifties. He’s referring to 1950, as in the years. That’s a long time ago. Fifties. If you haven’t heard that, he doesn’t mean 2050s. 1950s. And, and you know, so this, just so you know his generation.
[00:21:03] Stephen Brown: Hey, I was not–
[00:21:04] Rob Williams: Wanted to clear that up.
[00:21:05] Stephen Brown: I was not born in 1950. I’ll tell you that.
[00:21:09] Rob Williams: It’s–
[00:21:09] Wade Carpenter: But he is.
[00:21:10] Rob Williams: I mean, when they hear fifties, like, what does that mean? Okay. I just, I just wanted to clear that up. This, this lingo that we used that–
[00:21:17] Wade Carpenter: Rob, I did wanna point out that after we’re done recording, he’s probably coming across the street to find you.
Bonding requirements for joint ventures
[00:21:22] Wade Carpenter: I know we need to wrap up, but Stephen, I was hoping you would touch on bonding requirements for joint ventures too.
[00:21:28] Stephen Brown: Well the project, if it’s a municipal job, federal job, city state job, it requires a bond. Or if the owner requires a project to be bonded, then the joint venture is literally named on the bid bond and the joint venture is named on the performance and payment bonds. And then what happens on the performance and payment bond forms is each of the, each of your surety sign.
So, for example, one joint venture where I’m the managing bond guy, I’m designated– you know, I have powers of attorney for both their company and my client’s company. And I issue the performance bond, send them copies, and then their agent bills their customer for their percentage of the bond. And I bill mine for my percentage of the bond. And it’s all worked out with your local surety underwriter and their home office. So it’s done all the time. It’s easy to work out.
[00:22:28] Rob Williams: Very interesting. That’s something I had not–
[00:22:31] Wade Carpenter: So if somebody has bonding capacity, it’s easy to work out sometimes.
[00:22:35] Stephen Brown: Hey, look, it’s a great way to boost your bonding capacity. I mean, so think about that, please.
[00:22:43] Rob Williams: I think one question a lot of the smaller active contractors may have is, is it gonna affect the bonding negatively? And I’m not really sure how that works. Like if, if the other guy has a bonding capacity of this and you’ve got this guy with like, really down here, does it negatively affect the bonding ability or?
[00:23:04] Stephen Brown: That’s the beauty of it, guys. It doesn’t affect you negatively. Remember me mentioning joint and several liability? The bonding company says, well, I I not only have one good contractor that I’m bonding, but I got two. We’re sharing the risk.
So for example, say one contractor has Zurich and another contractor has CNA as their bonding companies. Both those companies are sharing the risk on the joint venture, so it’s underwritten a lot more positively for you.
[00:23:36] Rob Williams: I think that’s important. Important. Again, I think we, we keep, I must have some inferiority complex or had one because I–
[00:23:42] Stephen Brown: Yeah. You know, you shouldn’t. You made that comment once after I bonded you. When you were in business, you said, you know, I couldn’t believe you bonded me. I was embarrassed. I was like, you know what? I don’t know where that perception came from, but guys, look, bonding agents are there to help you sort this out, so don’t worry about that.
[00:24:02] Rob Williams: Yeah.
How will the joint venture handle compliance and accounting?
[00:24:02] Wade Carpenter: Let me hit my last topic. I know we’re running kind of a little long here and we didn’t get too deep into, some of these questions, but the last one is really more about the compliance stuff like the tax returns and how the accounting is gonna be handled.
We’ve been working with a lot of these contractors and sometimes they just don’t have the back ends to support for the accounting part, or even the accounting is sometimes different from even the day-to-day construction accounting complexities because of the construction joint venture. So that’s where we come in.
These are some great questions we’ve been asking our clients when we put that checklist out. And if anyone is interested in that checklist or want to go through that assessment we did put that out on our website for free. It even gives you some suggested answers to get you started because what we found is that people, they don’t know how to even get it started so, they get this analysis paralysis and do nothing.
As we said, joint ventures can be a great way to build your business, and I hope everybody listening considers this if this is right for them, and I hope they’ve got a ton of great value out of this.
[00:25:13] Rob Williams: Yeah, this has been great. Wade. I’d love for us to do some more. Maybe we can make a playlist on YouTube: Construction Joint Ventures, and we’ll put all those episodes together under one playlist and we could probably easily do 10 of these and not even scrape the surface.
So this is, this is huge.
[00:25:28] Wade Carpenter: I’ve got a whole hub page on my Carpenter CPAs website devoted to construction joint ventures, if anybody is looking for more free information on this.
[00:25:37] Rob Williams: All right, let’s do it. Listeners, let us know if you, if you guys want to hear more about construction joint ventures. And what is it that we didn’t address? What do you wanna know? Put some comments on YouTube, we’ll see it. Or go to our webpage, different places. You can put ’em, you can go to our LinkedIn page, make some comments there. Contractor Success Forum.
Bring that up. Anything else? I didn’t mean to cut off. I know we’re going long.
[00:26:00] Stephen Brown: No, I mean, Just to say how old I am, you can, you can call us, you know? And for young people that, that signifies, they used to have these things called handsets on your telephones.
[00:26:11] Wade Carpenter: Do these rotary dial–
[00:26:12] Rob Williams: Dial.
[00:26:12] Wade Carpenter: –telephones.
[00:26:13] Rob Williams: Dial us!
[00:26:14] Stephen Brown: So, so there, I guess there’s no you know, visual emoji for calling us. But you know, there, I’ve gotta, I’ve got a iPhone and you can call me on that. How about that?
[00:26:23] Rob Williams: All–
[00:26:24] Stephen Brown: You can call Wade. You can call Rob. Best thing is our Contractor Success Forum website. Give us your feedback. Let us know what you’re thinking. Let us know if you have any questions. We’re here to help you.
[00:26:35] Wade Carpenter: Rob, lock your doors because Stephen’s coming across the street when we’re done.
[00:26:39] Rob Williams: Yeah, that’s right, man.
[00:26:41] Stephen Brown: Hey, thank you guys. Thanks Wade. Great topic.
[00:26:44] Rob Williams: All right. Well this has been the Contractor Success Forum. You guys come back and listen to us Wade Carpenter, Carpenter and Company, CPAs. Remember that. And Stephen Brown, McDaniel-Whitley Bonding and Insurance Agency and Rob Williams authoring the Pumpkin Plan for Contractors. Come back and see us. See you later.