Monday, January 29, 2007

Success in Partnership

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about the birth of MAVERICK. While it may have sounded very spiritual and easy to find the road, be forewarned: the decision to launch your own company takes incredible strength, foresight and the right team to airlift it.

First off, before you even endeavor to hang your own shingle, know yourself inside out. You should know intimately what parts of the business you can master and where you think you will fall short. Be completely honest with yourself. It is one thing to say you can “do it all” but another in practice. The failure in any new business venture is trying to do everything singlehandedly.

Case in point: I’d like to point to some great PR firms in this city that have strong partnership philosophies in place. The dynamic duo of Judy Lewis and Deb Weinstein of Strategic Objectives, the PR Pros Joe Thornley and Terry Fallis of ThornleyFallis, and of course, Susanne Courtney and Sharon Rainey of the Courtney Rainey Group (just acquired by Cohn & Wolfe). These firms (and many others) are successful in part due to their powerful partnerships and ability to divide and conquer.

I knew early on I had very few skills in the financial management department. Oh, I can figure out personal savings and expenses, but I had no concept of a P&L statement, overhead expenses, margins and the two most important words in a company’s financial well-being: “cash flow.”

Without a strong partner to fully manage and integrate the back-end, while I concentrated on building a client profile, I would have been D.O.A. before my first client win.

I was very fortunate that my life partner, Gerry Riddell, happened to be one of the Canadian PR industry’s foremost financial business managers. With a career spanning more than 20 years serving big agencies like Burson-Marstellar and Cohn & Wolfe, he was and still is the wind beneath my wings. Not only did he put all his best practices to work here, he is the ultimate sounding board for all of us in the company.

When we were launching MAVERICK back in 1999, I was literally all over the map. I bounced around every day with new ideas and changed my vision hourly (Ritalin has worked wonders for me!). A strong partner, that brings a divergent view point will listen and position you squarely on a focused path. (Gerry is a modest lieutenant and is probably pissed off that I am even writing this in my blog!)

Every entrepreneur needs a successful partner. I can’t think of any thriving enterprise that wasn’t rooted in a trusted partnership. Bill Gates had Paul Allen; Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak and Heather Riesman had her Gerry….Gerry Schwartz that is.

The success of MAVERICK’s early beginnings rested squarely on two factors: client acquisition and financial back office management. I would even dare say no entrepreneur should attempt to simultaneously manage bean counting and building their business. Why? Growth will be stunted, guaranteed.

So, you might want to start your own business (maybe a PR firm?), but the undeniable truth is there are a ton of hurdles to get past. However, the biggest obstacle to overcome is accepting that you can’t do it alone. Martyrdom is not rewarded in our capitalist society. Divide and conquer. It works.

I’ve got my Gerry, make sure you get yours.

1 comment:

Duane said...

I have to agree. I hired an accountant to handle my accounting because even though I could do it and did well in school at it. It was best left to a better professional then myself. This lets me focus on growing my business. Having signed two clients last week, makes me really glad I made that decision early on.

I think my partner is my mom, as funny as it sounds. She's always there when I need someone to just ramble and talk to. I never truly feel along as I also have my lawyer and accountant to call and banter with. The power of two of three can never been broken when they work together and have a common vision for what success is.