Letters on Partnership
Robin Schatz' Entrepreneur's Life column, "A Perfect Blendship" (Business
Week, Frontier, Mar. 1, 1999), moved a number of readers to
tell their own partnership stories. Here are some edited excerpts:
Ann Ives and I met when I was hired by an international seminar company
in 1981. When I joined, I was unaware the company had been laying off people.
Ann was so disturbed that she refused to speak with me, telling me later
she didn't want to make friends and see me laid off. Despite this rocky
start, we clicked. After the company declared Chapter 11, we left. Five
months later, Ann and I opened an office in New York City. Seventeen years
later, we're successfully doing just what we envisioned -- marketing
the services of first-class consultants and trainers.
In that time, we have never had a serious disagreement. We argue --
but about issues. And we always listen carefully to each other's position.
Our talents complement each other. Ann is a master marketer. I am
the customer-contact person. However, we overlap frequently. I'm inclined
to act immediately and hate to read the fine print on anything. Is it any
wonder Ann is the one who handles the finances and contracts? It works!
I push her; she puts the brakes on me.
Our lifestyles differ considerably. Both of us are married, but our
husbands are 180 degrees apart in interests and personality. My husband
and I love to travel. I take long vacations. She is inclined toward long
weekends and 10-day trips. I have to call in even when there is a 12-hour
time lag. Ann leaves and forgets the business. She says after working for
companies for years, where her vacation was interrupted by crises, it's
wonderful to leave the business to me and know it is safe.
My four married children are as apt to seek Ann's advice as mine. We
are intimately involved in all the significant events in each others' lives.
We consider our lives have been showered with good fortune: We have
a partnership that not only works but nourishes each of us. How many people
can say as much?
I loved the piece on Gail Tessler and Norma Menkin. It reminded me of
the relationship between the founding partners of our company. Bernie Swain
and Harry Rhoads have created a business that's become the industry leader.
After working together for 20 years in four buildings, they still share
an office (admittedly bigger than the first one) with desks facing
each other. The benefits of their arrangement are enormous when it
comes to communication and decisiveness. They're good friends out of the
office and have a supportive relationship that serves as a model for the
other 40-odd people in the organization. A wonderful case study.
Barbara Buchholz and I both left secure jobs to start our own small operations. It sounded
so tempting after years of working for others. We also thought we'd have
more time for ourselves and our families. Hardly the case, we found.
But the biggest surprise was how lonely we were. We each longed for some
camaraderie and regular feedback. Fortunately, our prayers were answered:
A mutual friend introduced us. We found we shared an interest in some of the same topics, such as
family businesses and a love of food and wine.
We started out as business associates. The most important thing to
us today is the enduring friendship.
Before we started working together, we tested the waters by collaborating
on a book. We found we succeeded despite snide comments, mostly from female
friends: "Are you still getting along?" They seemed to imply that women
can't work together for long without egos or jealousy getting in the way.
More articles and corporate histories followed, and we kept up our solo
writing assignments. We recently published a book, Successful Homebuilding
and Remodeling: Getting the House You Want Without the Roof (or Sky) Falling
In, and are completing a second book on family businesses with Arthur Andersen.
Our partnership will mark its 12th anniversary this spring. When Barbara's
husband asks, "Is there anything Meg doesn't know?" she can honestly answer,
"Not much." And Meg's husband has learned to accept the same.
Margaret Crane and Barbara B. Buchholz
St. Louis, Mo.
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