Ray and Tom were in their thirties when they decided to start a business as partners. You probably know them or someone just like them.Ray was diligent, organized, methodical, hard working and extremely practical. He had paid his dues working his way up to the GM’s position in a manufacturing plant in rural Texas.
He had grown dissatisfied with corporate life for two important reasons. The first was feeling constrained by his distant but micro-managing boss. The second was the grief he was getting at home for 5 moves in 11 years.
He knew the business and had no problem managing production. He also knew he sucked at selling. He was a bit awkward with relationships and didn’t really understand people. He was impatient and thought most social interactions were a waste of time. He needed a partner who could make sales.
When he met Tom he felt like he had struck gold. Tom was a natural with relationship building. He was extroverted and curious at the same time. He made people feel like they were the most important person in the world. That combined with his product knowledge and creativity at finding solutions to business issues made him the ideal partner.
Ray and Tom struck a deal. On paper the deal was who owned what and how the assets would be divided in case of dissolution. The real deal was the unnamed interpersonal transaction. Ray felt incomplete and knew he needed Tom’s skills to be successful. Although he never would have admitted it he felt a bit like Jerry Maguire’s famous line “You complete me”.
The problem with the deal was that although Ray knew he needed Tom’s skills he didn’t really respect them. He thought of them as a necessary nuisance to get to what was important.
The business became successful in time but the partnership didn’t. Ray always thought that he brought the real value and did the most work. It didn’t help that so much of Tom’s work looked like fun and didn’t appear to require much effort.
Ray began to resent his partner and became bitter about how unfair the deal was. Why did he have to spend the long hours doing the books and managing the business? The partnership lasted a few years after that and then ended with an attorney to activate the dissolution.
The sad part of the story is that Tom wasn’t the only bad deal Ray made. He had married his wife for many of the same reasons. She was energetic, funny, outgoing, warm, and bubbly. As attractive as all those qualities were in the beginning, ultimately those were the very things they fought about in the end. Why couldn’t she be more disciplined, organized, diligent, and prompt?
What Ray really wondered is why other people weren’t more like him? But that wasn’t the deal was it?