I've been teaching on the side as a technical expert throughout industry for the last several years, while maintaining a full time job. I have an established an LLC for this side business.
Now, I will launch a product company startup in the same industry. However, I want to keep the teaching aspect going on the side.
The question is, should I form two separate LLCs, or one LLC that does both under the same name? I understand the legal/tax tradeoffs, but I'm more concerned about perception and practical aspects...
Scenario A: Keep the (1) side-business teaching and the (2) product company as two separate LLCs. The teaching business will only be myself, whereas the product company may grow to support a few employees over time. Separating them makes things cleaner if I were to sell the product company eventually. But, it splits marketing efforts in two, and I wonder if it opens questions about loyalty in the customer's eyes (e.g. which one am I really committed to)? I wonder if this sends mixed messages to the community. However, this may make it easier to blog about things about the industry independent from the company I founded. But, would it be improper to blog on the teaching side about the product side related to the company? etc.
Scenario B: Use one LLC to do both. This provides consistent appearance when people meet me (they know which company I'm representing). There's no question about my loyalty. If I teach on the side, it helps marketing for the product company. But, wouldn't this restrict what I could blog about in the industry? (since I'm always representing the company) If I were to teach about competing products, it might give illusion of bias.
Which scenario makes more sense, particularly from the customer's point of view?
Anyone know of examples in the industry where founders blog about their industry? Most often I see experts with their own website.
I ran a company in transportation technology which ran into exactly this issue. The scientific founder of the company wanted to not just blog on technology (which was actually fairly accepted in our industry, even if you were a supplier) he also wanted to big on government consulting contracts, which of course got very tricky.
The solution we felt was best, and were moving towards, was to set him up as an outside expert, billing through his own consulting company. As the CEO, I would have loved to have the consulting revenue come through our P&L, but we just couldn't figure it out.
This only worked, though, because there was a whole team of us running the company, and the scientific founder was no longer actually essential on the technology side. We still had to explain to investors how the founder was still intimately involved in the company, and very motivated to help us through his shares ... and how all his blogging and consulting would build out the market for our products.
If you are going to want to raise outside money for this business, you are going to need to keep it together in one LLC. People need to know you are 100% committed to the business they invest in ... since it sounds like you are still very much the key person they need to see involved.
From experience, the blogging on the teaching side is fine: just always divulge your conflict, and people will generally judge you as biased or not based on your writing.
P.S. If you want to see specific examples of how we did it, Google 'Skymeter' (company no longer in existence) and 'Bern Grush'.