First I must say, this site is quite impressive. I found it while researching partnership agreements. That being said, I am nearing a fairly important conversation with my current partner to discuss structuring our business. Below are the specifics:
He and I own another successful business together. Currently, we are in early/launch phase with a fully developed/tested concept and product. He works full time and I currently work part time. Given the stage of business, it is quite difficult for us to stay informed as it is moving at an exponential rate and I am still in my very demanding job. Discussed far prior to starting the business, it was understood that I would maintain my job until our new company could afford to pay me - however nominal the amount may be. Also, I am willing to sacrifice in order to further the business.
We are currently coming in to conflict as he is concerned with the amount of work and not being able to cover it all. His proposal includes hiring on an employee we have previous worked with in our first business who, although young (24), is quite responsible and successful (worth the $$). The problem lies in that he feels I should give up an equity state in order to incentivize the employee to join forces.
Here in lies the concern:
Any ideas/options would be greatly appreciated!
Since you're looking at an S-corp, you have limited options when it comes to equity.
An S-corp is restricted to one type of share, and all parties who "own" the business are shareholders. This means there is no preferred or common stock, it's all the same type.
If you choose to offer ownership of your company to any employees, it does mean that they become shareholders, with voting rights. Using numbers, if you have 100 shares total, and you and your partner each hold 50 shares, you must determine how many to give an employee. If you choose to give them 20, then you can pull the 20 shares equally, or in-equally out of the 100 you and your partner share. Ideally, you would turn this into 20, 40 and 40 shares. Now, if your business makes $10,000 in a fiscal year, your tax return for the business will show this, and given that S-Corps are pass through entities, you will show monies earned as $2,000, $4,000 and $4,000. This would be on top of the monies you are contributing to the salary of the employee, since they are entitled to share in your profits.
Basically S-Corps work very well if everyone is sharing in the work (and the contributions) in equal part to the shares they own. If you want employees, C-Corps are a better, since they stop the pass through income (each of you would need to draw salaries), and allow for common and preferred stock (or voting or non-voting stock).
My personal rules about employees is I only hire contractors, unless I'm running a C-corp, and making enough money to cover the cost of an employee (don't forget about the tax/insurance/benefits/etc).
Hopefully this helps give some perspective, please let me know if you need more information, or if this is not clear.
Best of luck!
I'm a Harvard lawyer and I feel you're overcomplicating this with legalese over not much money.
I would figure out something fair and durable for all parties and go with that.
The law permits a lot of flexibility in how you divvy up voting rights vs. ownership interests, etc.
Once you guys reach a fair business arrangement, hire a lawyer to draft it up.
Have you reviewed the following:
Forming a new software startup, how do I allocate ownership fairly? Yes, I understand you have an S corp, and this advice is more applicable to C corp types, but the perception of fairness comes into play here. Also, I'd second @MaddHackers advice and consider moving to a C corp if you intend on offering options / equity to staffers as an incentive to join.