No democracy at the top!

Few people talk about the importance of business partners. This is surprising considering how many companies success depend on the two or three people really jelling well together to make a company work. Some of the more obvious successes include Steve Jobs and Woz, Hewlitt and Packard, and some day, historians might even look at Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Of course, the recent movie Social Networks highlights a ‘partnership gone bad’ between Mark Zuckerburg and Eduardo Saverin. Michael Eisner recently wrote a great book, Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed, using his relationship with Frank Wells, Disney’s number two guys for many years, as a good model. In his book, he descusses the following partnerships:

  • Michael Eisner and Frank Wells (Disney)
  • Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger (Berkshire Hathaway)
  • Bill and Melinda Gates (The Gates Foundation)
  • Brian Grazer and Ron Howard (Imagine Entertainment)
  • Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti (Valentino)
  • Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus (Home Depot)
  • Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (restauranteurs)
  • Joe Torre and Don Zimmer (Yankees)
  • John Angelo and Michael Godron (finance)
  • Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell (Studio 54)

Eisner states that success partnerships require the ability to share, be vulnerable and speak freely. (Sounds like the same ingredients to a successful social media relationship or campaign, eh). All this is the opposite of why partnerships don’t work out: insecurity, lack of trust, fear, envy, paranoia. Some of these characteristics I have seen prevent companies from building successful teams and successful digital campaigns.Why I am talking about all this on a digital site. Cause every one’s dirty laundry can potentially be out there in public. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are great for spreadings about good gospels and bad behaviors. Just look at all the online info on Tiger Wood’s experiences in 2010. I have to admit that I kept checking Twitter to learn about all his different mistresses because every day for a few months, it seems that a new one was coming out of the wood works. The Huffington Post and Twitter helped me stay informed:Partnerships, though, are like marriages. They take work to maintain. So to reduce the amount of risk of either a potential breakup, here’s what I recommend:1. Work out a Pre-Nup beforehand — for the sake of both partners — being clear about what happens if one leaves the other.. This is really about equity ownership of the company and who owns what. (Just make sure to get things down in on paper and have a third party review it)2. Know that unlike a marriage, it’s best to have an ultimate decision maker and if the company scales, you will eventually have to have aboard.3. CEOs can’t run a company as a democracy… so even a great partnership at the top will require an ultimate decision maker4. Build some clause in about taking legal action against the other person5. Set up news feeds of your name, your partners (so you can keep track of what others think)6, Build redundancy with your and your partner’s knowledge — make sure your partner doesn’t have all the answers for a certain issue/topic7. Think about how much of your idea do you really want to hand over to another person or how much ownership do you want to retain in a company8. Write in detail each person’s responsibilityIf you don’t address the issues above, there will be  time delay in making business decisions, something no company can afford in this new digital worldOne last word: Trust your gut when thinking about establishing a partnership. Yes, treat it like a marriage, so if it doesn’t feel right in your gut, don’t worry about why you have that feeling. Just don’t go into business with that person.

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