The 30-year business partnership of Terry Streich and Gary Welton at Silver Bullet Design & Build has outlasted many marriages. It's experienced as many ups and downs as well, from the highs of the extended canoeing trips the two enjoyed before family and other obligations took over, to the lows of the early 1990s, when “business tanked so badly that we went off and hung dry-wall to keep things going,” says Streich, president of the Minneapolis company.
“I'm more married to John than to my wife,” says Darius Baker, only half-jokingly, of his 25-year partnership with John Scofield. As co-owners of D&J Kitchens & Baths in Sacramento, Calif., the two have seen each other through divorce and parenthood, the dissolution of one business and the launch of another, hobbies and midlife and illness, and all the trials and tribulations of running a company, including long hours and difficult decisions.
“Partnerships are incredibly like marriage,” says Linda Case, founder of Remodelers Advantage, Laurel, Md. “They often start up very rosy” but are fraught with potential difficulties and are “painful to break up.”
Yet when partnerships thrive, they can be richly rewarding.
How to make yours succeed? By consciously embodying many of the same behaviors that reinforce strong marriages. That is, all parties agree on a shared vision of what you want to accomplish. You respect one another's contributions and opinions. You communicate often and honestly. And you make it work, in good times and in bad.
Agree On a Vision Remodeling partners don't have to be the good friends that Streich and Welton, Baker and Scofield, and most others quoted in this article are. But you do need to have a compatible “vision” for your company, says Theresa Gale, a business coach with Transform Inc., in Laurel, Md. “It's important to know that all partners are on the same page regarding what they want to accomplish,” she says.
Gale says her “model” clients are Craig Durosko and Bob Gallagher, president and vice president/chief operating officer, respectively, of Sun Design Remodeling, a $7 million company in Burke, Va. Durosko was just 18 when he launched Sun in 1988 and “wore all the hats” until 1993, when Gallagher came aboard to steer the company's finances. “Bob and I have really different styles of management,” Durosko says. Since 1995 the two have bridged these differences and mapped out future growth through annual strategic planning meetings, culminating in 2000 with the development of “Sun Design's Shared Vision”:
“We will strive to be the most respected and accomplished remodeling firm in the country. Our work, our service, and our attitude will clearly communicate this conviction to each other, our clients, and our peers.”
John Wolfe and Jim Scovell are partners in Scovell Wolfe & Associates, a $4.1 million company in Kansas City, Mo. Their shared vision focuses on delighting clients in the close-knit, affluent neighborhoods where they both work and live. As excerpted from their mission statement, “Our objective is to earn the customers' complete trust, confidence, and respect by providing the highest degree of service possible.”
This plays out in examples such as the company's recent complete rebuilding of a mud-set shower whose pan sprung a leak 10 years after they installed it. “John and I are on the same page when it comes to client satisfaction,” Scovell says. “That's really the most important ideal we live by.”