Venture Capital Partnership Structure vs. Corporate Structure

Personality tests and job tests exist to help score your personality and fit for a job, but I am yet to see a test that indicates what organizational structure that somebody would excel in. The large companies have the corporate hierarchy that draws nicely onto an organizational chart. These charts start with CEO at the top, then X number of people under that role, then more under that role and on and on it goes. The partnership structure is flat and minimum. When you look at a partnership structure, there might be a managing partner, but the other partners don’t work for that role. Perhaps some of the admin staff work for the managing partner or the partnership may have an office manager where that role manages others.

In the corporate structure, that comes with the political wrangling. To survive and move up in this structure it requires the chutzpah. You have to deal with peers that want your job, those that want to undermine you and perhaps a large number of people to manage. In my career, I have always had the goal to become the Chief Operating Officer, but as I watch those above me that manage the people that want their job, undermining them and those that are managing, I am not sure I have the chutzpah for that role. What I do lack in chutzpah I make up in execution.

Increasingly I find I am the go to person to bring people together and get things done. I do believe that others believe I could have the chutzpah to have an executive role, but I have been cautioned that it may not be for me. I do think back to my days working at a small company and in a partnership and realize how much I enjoyed those roles as I could get stuff done and not have to bring this chutzpah.

After all of my years in the workforce, I have come to the conclusion that I would excel in a partnership structure. Part of my early childhood reason to pursue a law degree included the structure I saw at a law firm. I got a first hand look while working at the best litigation and real estate firm in Boston, Lyne, Woodworth and Evarts. I got to see how the partners worked independently to bring in clients, execute for the clients, make money for the firm and then everyone would have a share of the pool at the end of the year. I watched the partners meeting come together, which I know had competing agendas, but yet there was nobody climbing over one another to “Take their job”. If you wanted to make partner, you brought in business and worked well with the other partners. In addition, to watching the legal structure, I saw this at the Venture Capital firms that I would stalk. Even their office setup was “Cool”. Usually, in a nice building in Boston, they would be in a high rise with a nice view or in a “boutique” setup where they would overlook the water. They all had windows and a nice setup. I remember my days working at Liberty Real Estate and delivering the mail. My favorite part of the day included the trip to Copley Square Ventures. While I never got past the front door, I could see the setup and how I envisioned myself in one of those offices in this partnership structure. I could see myself meeting with “clients”, bringing in deal flow then going to those monthly partner meetings and giving my updates.

My fascination has continued with partnership setups. I’ve obsessed over the office setup at Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital. How much fun that would be to work in that structure as an executioner and bring in deal flow to the partnership.

Now in 2019, as I sit here with a deep expertise in project management and bringing people together, I have to choose. Do I pursue some Director title role where I will have to deal with those that wanted the job, undermine me in the job or have to deal with the personalities of management, or can I make more money finding that partnership structure that can benefit from my skill set?I’ve made a lot of miscues in my career and since 2009 I have been able to correct many of them, but finding a partnership that wants me in their organization could be an uphill battle. I still believe that if I took the organizational structure test, it would come back “Excels in contributing to a partnership as opposed to a corporate hierarchy”.



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JJ Donovan

JJ Donovan

Product Manager specializing in financial services