#32: A Success Story

Last time I told you a harrowing tale of a business partnership that went south due to one members change in commitments. I’d like to contrast this unhappy tale with my working relationship with Stephen, which demonstrates a successful mechanism to deal with changing circumstances. Stephen and I met in 2002; we are very different in terms of the way we work, and indeed the work we do, but the arrangement is very successful. One of the key aspects I think is that we see eye to eye on the issues that matter; we have never had a cross word in seven years!

When we met – and we met through networking – we saw opportunities to work together. What we did, without involving any lawyers, was draft out one page of A4 with some basic but important terms of reference, detailing how we were going to work, what we were going to call ourselves, what kind of business we were going to look for, our pricing model, the amount of money we were going to invest, and the amount of time we were going to commit.

After twelve months we planned to take stock and then decide what to do next. Well, during that first year I think we made a small profit, which was not bad in view of the market conditions. During that year we were lied to, cheated, and played off against each other; so the year was not without its excitement.

We sat down and had a beer at the end of the year and we decided you learn more about people during adversity than when things are going well. So we set the company up and away we went.

A postscript to this story though – we eventually experienced the drift… but it was me, not Stephen. I heard the siren call of doing other interesting work, and became set on developing a portfolio career, whereas Stephen was still channelling all his effort and energy into the company.

I raised the subject before any resentment could set in. So what we did was adjust the shareholding from 50-50 so that Stephen became the majority shareholder, which reflected this change in circumstance.

The way we went about it was adult, professional and it made sense.

We were still aligned but in a way that better reflected our respective levels of commitment. You could imagine how, if that conversation had not taken place, there could have been resentment.

So if you are going into partnership with someone else, be very careful of how you set it up, why you are setting it up and how you will deal with it if it does not go according to plan.

For more advice on this or if you feel you or your business partner may be feeling “the drift” and are unsure about what to do next, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Posted in: Start-ups

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