Business partnerships aren’t easy. Building a strong, respectful business partnership takes time and dedication. I was lucky to have Linda Case as my business partner for more than 20 years and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. And I believe that we accomplished much more together than we could have individually. This is the goal behind most partnerships. Each person brings something special to the party, creating a fantastic synergy.
syn•er•gy (s n r-j ); n. pl. syn•er•gies: 1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.
When Jorge Castellanos teamed up with Greg Buitrago Jr., this was exactly what they had in mind. Each was passionate about the remodeling business and each brought a slightly different skill set to the company. Together, they created Hammer Contractors, in Olney, Md., intending to grow quickly into a professional, profitable enterprise.
But things didn’t go quite as smoothly as they had intended. “When we began, neither of us had job descriptions,” Buitrago says, “so responsibilities were spread all over the place.” Both partners were involved in all aspects of the business. The result: paralysis.
“It took forever to make even the smallest decision,” Castellanos says. “We’d talk and talk and talk about what action to take … instead of getting things done.”
For example, when building the website, the partners spent over a month choosing the template. “Even if a task was technically assigned to one of us, it was understood that both of us would have a say in the final decisions.” This slowed progress tremendously.
“Sometimes, if I felt Jorge was taking too long to review and provide his input, I’d feel like he was micromanaging, get frustrated and just abdicate to him,” Buitrago says. Other times, they would both find themselves working on the same issues instead of splitting their efforts to accomplish more.
When they both were fed up with the lack of movement, they went to the pastor of their church and asked him to act as a sounding board. “In many ways, being in business together is very similar to marriage,” Buitrago says. “You have to learn to communicate in a healthy way.”
Castellanos says, “Using a third party to help us see our weaknesses was very helpful. By working together with our pastor, we built up our mutual respect and firmly understood that each of us could trust the other to do what was needed.”
Today, it’s a completely different Hammer Contractors. What has changed? Castellanos chuckles: “Today, we are working. Before, we were talking!” Buitrago adds, “Our efficiency has quadrupled because each of us now is responsible for our own areas. Of course, we still talk regularly about the direction of the company, but each of us is responsible for completing our own tasks in the best way possible.”
Before, Buitrago, the main salesperson, would give Castellanos, the main production person, an incomplete sales-to-production hand-off packet because they both knew that Buitrago would continue to be involved. But this kept Buitrago from getting back on the streets to sell more. Today, a complete packet is a must so that Castellanos can jump in with both feet, knowing that the information he needs to produce the job on time and on budget is at his fingertips.
Buitrago says, “We can only achieve the goals we want when we are focused on our goals. This process of improving communication and streamlining responsibilities within the company was just what we needed.” —Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, an organization dedicated to helping remodelers build high-performance, profitable businesses, and home of the industry’s largest peer organization, Remodelers Advantage Roundtables.