Choosing the Right Organizational Structure for Your Independent Advisory Practice

Aug 14, 2023 4 min read

As an independent advisor, choosing the right organizational structure for your practice is essential to the success of your practice. It impacts your tax liability, your ability to attract clients, and your legal responsibilities. In Canada, there are several different structures to consider, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Identifying which structure is right for your practice can be a challenge, so let's explore the different organizational structures available to you and some of the pros and cons of each.

Sole Proprietorship

The simplest and most straightforward structure is the sole proprietorship. As a sole proprietor, you're the only owner of your practice, maintain complete control over all business decisions, and are responsible for all debts and liabilities. Sole proprietorships are easy to set up and they do not require legal formalities and are usually a good choice for advisors who are just starting (and have a low risk of liability). It's also the most cost-effective option as no additional fees or paperwork are involved.

Still, there are some drawbacks to operating as a sole proprietor. First, while you have control over all decisions and receive all the profits, you are personally liable for any debts or legal claims against your practice – you do not have separate legal status from your business, so any risks extend to your personal property and assets. Additionally, operating as a one-person-shop may limit your ability to attract high-net-worth clients as they may look towards firms that appear to have more resources.


  • Easy to set up and maintain

  • Complete autonomy

  • No need to share profits or decisions with others


  • Personal liability for all debts and legal issues with the practice

  • Potential difficulties in attracting high-net-worth clients


Another option for independent advisors in Canada is to operate as a partnership. A partnership is a business structure in which two or more people share ownership of a single business. Within a partnership, each partner is responsible for a portion of the practice's debts and liabilities. This structure may be a good choice for advisors who want to share their workload and responsibilities. It may also be a good choice for advisors who have complementary skills and expertise. It may also be easier to attract larger clients as more capital and resources are available.

However, just like a sole proprietorship, partnerships can have some significant drawbacks. One major concern is the potential for disputes between partners. Disagreements about decision-making, profit-sharing, and other issues can quickly derail a partnership; a clear partnership agreement should be in place to outline responsibilities and expectations. Additionally, like sole proprietorships, partnerships offer no protection against personal liability. Each partner is personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the practice, which can be a significant risk.


  • Shared responsibilities and workload

  • Access to additional capital and expertise

  • Ability to attract larger clients because of the larger resources


  • Shared profits and decision-making

  • Partners may have conflicting opinions or priorities

  • Partners share liability for all debts and legal issues with business


Incorporating your advisory practice can help you establish credibility and professionalism in the eyes of your clients, making it easier to secure financing, attract investors, and build a strong reputation in the industry. It can also provide you with a level of protection for your personal assets. This means that in the event your practice is sued or faces financial difficulties, your personal assets would be shielded from creditors. As a corporation, you can also take advantage of certain tax deductions and credits unavailable to sole proprietors or partnerships.

On the other hand, setting up a corporation can be more complex and expensive than operating as a sole proprietorship. Additionally, corporations are subject to more regulations and formalities, such as filing annual reports and holding regular meetings. You also potentially lose some flexibility in decision-making. As a corporation, you will need to follow a set of rules and procedures, which may limit your ability to make decisions quickly or adapt to changing market conditions.


  • Limited liability protection for the advisor

  • Formal structure can add credibility to the practice, allowing for easier access to funding and capital

  • May provide tax advantages and deductions


  • Can be expensive to set up and maintain

  • Requires adherence to corporate formalities and regulations

  • Can limit flexibility in decision-making

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the best organizational structure for your independent advisory business will depend on your specific needs and circumstances. If you are just starting and have a low risk of liability, a sole proprietorship may be a good choice. A partnership may be a good option if you want to share the workload and responsibilities of running a business. Incorporating may be a good option for those looking to build credibility in the industry while also allowing more accessible access to funding and capital.

No matter which structure you choose, it's essential to seek a qualified professional's advice to navigate each option's legal and financial implications to determine which structure is right for your practice. By carefully considering your options and seeking expert advice, you can choose an organizational structure that will set you up for success.

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