Thoughts on Partnership

Blair and David dive into a discussion on ownership structures, looking at the results of a survey that David did recently about partnerships.



BLAIR ENNS: David, are you pretty happy with this Two Bob's thing so far?

DAVID C. BAKER: I am really happy. I've been thinking about this recently, just noticing how many people, surprisingly, how many people, Everybody I talk to listens to it and when you, you came up with this idea to do this podcast and I wasn't reluctant at all. I thought it was a great idea but I thought it might be kind of one of our lark ideas. We would do it for three months, nobody would listen, and we'd try to find a better idea. But I've just been thrilled, how about you? 

BLAIR: I don't think it's working out, that's why I brought it up. Just kidding.

DAVID: It's going to, it's One Bobs now. 

BLAIR: It's just not working out. It's not me, it's you. No, it's you. No, I've been thrilled with it and I know you wanted to give a shout out to our listeners because there isn't a week goes by and sometimes a day where we don't hear from people commenting on how they're listening. I've really been kind of touched and humbled by the size of our listenership and the impact we've had.

DAVID: Yeah, and so many of our clients, your clients and my clients, have started podcasts I think inspired a little bit by this. They've had this idea for awhile. 

BLAIR: Thinking I can do better than that.

DAVID: Yeah. Sure, we set the bar low. That encouraged a lot of people. But it's been interesting to see the impact that your clients and my clients have had, too. If you've got a big enough following already and if you enjoy this mode, then I think a lot of people ought to consider it. We should connect them with our producer because he's really set us straight on so many things about how frequently it needs to come out and the production values need to be high and so on. But if people have enough to say and if they're committed to it, it seems like it ought to be one of five things they should consider narrowing it down like you're a big believer in doing one or two things and doing them really well. Most of our clients, this wouldn't be the thing they would choose, the one or two things, but some of them should. They should think about this.

BLAIR: It beats working for a living.

DAVID: It does. Absolutely. I'm at our retreat right now where you've been multiple times and I'm looking out the window and a big tree fell down and I'm going to have to do some manly things this afternoon and that's terrifying. I'm looking for reruns of that Tim, the tool man show, right? And I'm going to rip out or pull out the chainsaw, using the word rip out it's a sign that I'm not set up to do manly things, right? So, this is much better. If we could do a podcast today that would last four hours, the daylight will set in, we'll leave, and I won't have to do any of that stuff.

BLAIR: Oh, come on. You're looking forward to it, you fire up the chainsaw. I always feel like I should have a cigarette after I've used a chain saw. It's like most manly thing that I do. I don't even cut anything. I'm too afraid of hurting myself. I just send out the signals to the neighbors. All right. Let's dive in to what we're talking about today because I wanted to talk to you about ownership structures, the different ways that a principal, whether it's somebody who's just thinking of going into business for herself or somebody who's thinking of maybe I haven't chosen the right structure, and you've done an interesting survey recently on that. We'll get to that. So, I want to open up the options that principals have when it comes to setting up their business. So, under the title of ownership structures, I thought we could look at how to set up the business if it's just you and then really, the meat of it, I wanted to get into issues of partnership. What do you do there's multiple people. Does that work for you?

DAVID: Yeah, sounds great. This will be interesting.

BLAIR: Under the bucket of if, it's just you, you own this business, what are the different ownership structures that are available to somebody who's starting a creative firm or any type of new business. Just under corporations, there's S Corps, C Corps, LLCs, LTDs, B Corps, benefit Corps. Let's begin at the beginning. Incorporating.

DAVID: Yeah, right. Should you do it, right? Because you don't have to. You can hang a shingle out and, of course, you're in Canada, I'm in the US, so we've got listeners all over the world, so obviously some of the stuff we're going to be talking about will have to be contextualized for you, but you do have to register with the government, obviously, and almost all of you are way past that, but none of you should be operating outside of a corporation because a corporation is mainly about protecting everything that's not in the corporation. So, if you own a home or you own intellectual property, all of that stuff, if something goes wrong in the corporation, the very worst that should happen is that gets cleaned out, but everything else that you own is not, it's protected. Under no circumstances should you not be incorporated. Now, which kind of corporation? That's up for grabs. There's really no difference in terms of how much you're protected legally, but there are some significant differences from a taxation standpoint and so you should check that.

DAVID: The most recent format of corporation is LLC and in the US, as all corporate issues, those are state based and so for many years an LLC wasn't recognized across the entire US. Amazon, which started about 20 years ago, is an LLC. They kind of made it famous. They're the largest LLC in the world as far as I can tell and you just want to talk with your tax attorney, right? Because it's a tax issue. But the one question, for sure, is whether you should be incorporated and you absolutely should.

DAVID: You brought up this B Corp thing, which is pretty interesting. So, my corporation is Recourses and it's actually a benefit corp. It was the first professional service benefit corp in Tennessee and it just means that I have a specific purpose beyond just making money and I have to publish that with the secretary of state. I have to update it every year. Then there's benefit corps and you could be a certified benefit corp. That is available to for profit organizations and these for profit organizations are essentially acting as nonprofit so they're adding on some specific benefit or purpose that they have and that process is very rigorous. It takes hours and hours, it has to be certified initially, and then re-certified every certain period of time. Then you stand alone within your competitor base and that might work for you. Most firms in the marketing space are not certified benefit corps, but many of them are and there's an increasing number of ones that are. So, anyway, hopefully that gives people an introduction. 

BLAIR: Yeah, and we have all that in Canada. What we don't have in Canada is the distinction between an S Corp and a C Corp. Do you want to take a minute and talk about that?

DAVID: That is really about taxes. So, when you incorporate in the US, you are automatically a C Corp and then you can file what's called an S Corp election, which means that you are now going to be taxed differently. There are differences in terms of how many owners you can have, there are differences in terms of whether you can have a fiscal year that doesn't match the calendar year, and so on. But anybody starting out nowadays in the US is almost always an LLC. There are a few S Corp's. Nobody starts as a regular corp anymore. The firms that have been around for many, many years are sometimes C Corps and they've had bad years and so those loss carry forward. I can see people's eyes glazing over here. 

BLAIR: Yeah, so let's get to the meat of this. I wanted to cover those other corporate structures but I really wanted to get into the idea of partnerships and how you structure the firm and maybe even the rules when it comes to going into business with a partner and that might be, you decide to launch a new business with a partner or maybe you've got a key employee or an outsider you're thinking of bringing on as a partner. The partnership, is that a legal status from a taxation point of view?

DAVID: It is outside of our field. So, you have LLPs which are limited liability partnerships. That's what you would have if you had a bunch of accountants or a bunch of lawyers. We don't use that status, it's fairly dangerous for us in the marketing field to use that. So, no, it doesn't change the status of the corporation. It'd be entirely separate. So, if I own a hundred percent of my firm and I had a partner, an equal partner, the corporate status would stay the same and we would just change the bylaws and now somebody would own 50 percent or 30 percent of the firm. But I think this partnership thing that you want to talk about, that one is really fascinating to me because we know so many firms, you have so many firms as clients and I do, too, where there's great partnerships and laying the partnerships they want to get out of and where you have a husband and wife who were also running the business and that's pretty complicated, right? Lots to talk about there. 

BLAIR: Yeah, and you've recently done a survey on how many partnerships there are out there and then the satisfaction level with the partnerships and there's some interesting responses in there. Do you want to talk about that?

DAVID: Yeah, I was so surprised. You know, the reason I keep doing research is because I'm constantly surprised where I think I understand something well, and then, I realize, oh my goodness, I don't. So, I just started gathering data on this one. It's only been out a couple of days but so far 160 firms have answered it and it starts, there's two questions, and the first one branches. So, the first question is do you have a partner? Right? And then if you do, then it asks you this question, do you have the right partner? Or I like the idea of partnership, but I don't have the right one or I wish I'd never had a partner in the first place. So, the people who do have partners, 26 percent of those people said they either have the wrong partner or they, after exploring it, they wish they didn't have a partner at all. A fourth of the people are in a bad business marriage. That really surprised me. And then the people who don't have a partner, 36 percent, so a third of them wish they did have a partner if they could find the right one. So, that's kind of what peaked our interest, right, to talk a little bit about this because there are so many folks who are, they wish they were in a different place around partnership and that's fascinating to me. 

BLAIR: That's really fascinating and we'll get to what you think is behind it, but I'm going to ask you to make a generalization first, and I know you're not going to want to be put on the spot this way, but if you had to say yes or no, if a client came to you and said, I'm thinking of bringing on a partner and you were forced to give standing guidance of, I think that's a good idea or I think that's not a good idea. What would you give?

DAVID: I would generally say it's not a good idea, convince me why this should be a good idea for you. Out of the gate, I'm generally going to say it's a bad idea, but if you have the right partner I think it's a fantastic idea. I think it's better to have a partner if it's the right one then to not have a partner at all, but the problem isn't having a partner. It's having the right partner and there's so many ways that a partnership can be structured in terms of how two people work together that, if it's done well, I think it's fantastic, but it seems like a terrifying thing to get it right from the outset. 

BLAIR: I can think of some obvious reasons why partnership makes sense. Like in my business, I have an equal partner. I happen to be married to her so that's beneficial but also potentially problematic, but the benefit is she brings an entirely different skill set than I do and she's always been an equal owner, but when she started working in an equal role, that's when the business results really started to change. So, I can see you're taking stock of where your firm is in your own abilities and you recognize that there's a set of tools or abilities or capacity that you don't have, but sometimes that capacity can be purchased, right? You can hire for it. When does it make sense to start thinking about bringing on a partner to fill those gaps?

DAVID: Ah, I love the way you asked that because my smart aleck response would be, you can see I started to say something else when I said smart, smart aleck, cause then if I say smart ass, ah, just did it, then they've got to put an E for explicit in here. 

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: So, my smart ass response is you should hire it whenever you can unless you feel like you want somebody carrying the burden with you. So, you could hire a fantastic CFO, for instance, but unless that person is an equal owner or something like that, then they're just not going to be carrying the load with you. You can hire a new business person but, if they aren't successful, they just go on and fInd another job. But having a partner who's responsible for new business development is completely different or the kinds of conversations you can have, the level of disclosure. There is an entrepreneurial loneliness that exists out there and the partnership notion is the best way to solve that, I think.

DAVID: People are not as lonely as entrepreneurs as they used to be. There's so much better help out there and entrepreneurs, principals of firms that you and I serve are so much more open than they used to be, so people don't feel as alone, but there's still this entrepreneurial loneliness sometimes only a partner can solve. So, I do think that's probably the difference. If you need somebody who's pulling the plow, who's in this, it matters to them just as much as it does to you, but they also bring something to the table that, the decisions you make together are so much better than the decisions you make apart and that's putting my finger on something that I see that's really missing in a lot of partnerships, where they have to make a decision that both of them agree with, which basically rubs the rough edges off of the decisions and they're not taking the risks that they should. And, frequently, I go into a firm and I look at it and I say to them, you should be making better decisions as partners than you are, but I feel like you're not doing that. The two of you together are making worse decisions than you would make individually or that you could make if you're both functioning well as a partnership team. So, that's a pretty interesting perspective. 

BLAIR: I can imagine how that happens because you might have one partner with a high tolerance for risk and another partner with a low tolerance for risk. One's focused on the future, one's focused on current efficiencies and, this is gonna sound autobiographical I can't disguise it, and the person who wants to take risk, sees an opportunity and wants to take risk, is not talked out of it by the partner, but agrees to arrive at a compromise. So, maybe you're describing scenarios where there's a lot of compromising and it really should be full tilt one way or the other.

DAVID: Each principal should be in charge of something that they're taking risks that they're comfortable with. And then other one also, it shouldn't always be one person having all the grandiose ideas and the other one killing them. It should be each partner should be responsible for grandiose ideas in their sphere of influence. 

BLAIR: Yeah, and also more basic responsibilities as well. That was a reminder to myself.

DAVID: Yeah, right. 

BLAIR: I love your idea of bringing on a partner to share the burden and I immediately conjured up this image of an entrepreneur who's not sleeping well at night and who's thinking, well, if I brought in a full partner, then I could sleep well every second night.

DAVID: Yeah, at least I'd get a little bit of rest. Right. 

BLAIR: There's an idea there. So, a benefit is you share the burden, a benefit is you have somebody to talk to, you have somebody in the trenches with you who's got skin in the game like you do and you can have these meaningful conversations and you can divvy up the work and play to your strengths. What about a scenario where a current employee wants ownership? Now, you and I see this come up a lot. Do you have a standard response to that? Should a principal be open to those conversations? Should they outright reject them or are times and places to consider it?

DAVID: Yeah. So, and this is something that's changed for sure because 10 years ago, for instance, if we roll back the clock, we could safely say, listen, if somebody is working for you now and they've worked for you for four or five years, they're not an entrepreneur or they wouldn't be working for you. If they were an entrepreneur, they'd be starting their own firm so this notion of them being in ownership doesn't probably make sense, but that has changed. People are starting entrepreneurial ventures later than they did. They're doing it quite successfully and we can see many examples of employees who turn into very effective partners.

DAVID: Now, if you're talking about selling that partnership to the employee, that's another matter, right? Because they seldom, bring money to the table and if they've worked for you for a long time, they somehow feel like they deserve ownership, like the firm's success, how far it's gotten, is in part due to what they have contributed and so they are taken aback by this idea of buying into the firm. That isn't always true. There are many employees, key employees working for you, who would, even if you have to loan the money to them, but they're willing to take a risk there. I think the most important element of successful partnership is willingness to take a risk and so that would be the first thing that I would evaluate and then I would make sure that this person really does fit what you and I are looking for and that's somebody who can take over one or two areas in the firm and we're so relieved because they're so good at it. Whether that's culture, whether it's CFO, whether it's new business, whether it's strategy, those kinds of things. So, yeah, I see more and more of those instances where an existing employee makes a fantastic partner. It has to be structured really well and carefully.

DAVID: But now, where it doesn't usually work is where you're looking for a partner or looking for a succession plan and you hire that person and immediately anoint them as your successor without having worked with them for two or three years and then deciding whether or not you really want to move forward on that front. 

BLAIR: Yeah. All right. It's interesting, I really thought you're going to go there, that place of you don't give partnership to an employee, they have to have skin in the game. They do buy in and, even if that means you lending them the money, so they're taking risks, you're taking risks there as well.

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: That seems to be a good way to approach it. 

You and I have both worked with firms where there's equal partners and the partners are playing a different role and usually it's fairly common that they're seen as equal partners in the firm, but sometimes equal ownership partners does not really translate to equal role. One partner might be a natural CEO and another one might turn out that it isn't even a very good manager. So, I think we need to draw the distinction between partners in ownership and the shares that each individual holds and what the implications are for what their roles may or may not be, because I think I see sometimes those lines blurred, the assumption I'm an equal owner, therefore I should have equal kind of status in terms of my role and maybe of my compensation in the firm.

DAVID: So, give me an example of a firm where you've seen this not a specific name of a company, obviously, but ... Let's dial them up and get them on live radio call here. No, not that, but like what was the role of the person who was an equal owner but didn't have as outward facing of role? Give me an example of that. 

BLAIR: I can think of two firms where equal partnership, at least in the beginning and many years later. The second partner is still into an art director role and is comfortable there and everybody acknowledges this is the role that he or she wants. Maybe when the firm began, that partner was the creative partner and, at some point, the partners recognized that the firm would be better served if they promoted a creative director above this person. So, this person does not sit on the management team but still has ownership in the firm and then one example is coming to mind of some tension that arose in a firm because one of the equal partners really did not deserve to be on the management team but didn't recognize that. Whereas the other two equal partners did see that this third person shouldn't be on the management team.

DAVID: Yeah, okay. Now, I see where you're headed with this. I think it's a little problematic in a small, personally held corporation like this to have somebody who owns say half the firm and doesn't do have to work even though that half might look very different and I see this happening where like three people get together, they all work at the same place, and they're tired of it. They feel abused and they want to start their own firm and so the three of them get together because they're the three people that hang out at the, what's going to be the former place, and they don't really have any awkward conversations so they're all equally one third partners and then they discover that that third, and often it is somebody on the creative side, isn't capable of managing other people and really their management advice isn't all that strong and they kinda just want to keep their head down and do great work and everybody recognizes this within three or four years and are not really sure where to go with it.

DAVID: I think that's problematic and when I step into situations like that, I try to deal with it. I try to fix it because, over time, that partner who's in over their head is going to feel in over their head and word will leak out that they're a third owner and the employees are looking across the landscape of ownership and saying, wow, they don't even act like an owner. You know? So, maybe they still own a third of the firm but it's just clear to everybody that they're not going to have the same sort of status, but it can get pretty awkward pretty quickly. I wish people would have a month's worth of very careful discussions between the three of these people who are meeting at a coffee shop and planning their partnership. They'd have an outside guide who could help them think through exactly what this means, right? Because it's too easy to be a partner in that state because everybody's kind of bringing clients together and they're not bringing, putting money in and they're not managing other people yet. It's just the three of them.

DAVID: So, it gets, you have to fast forward and think, okay, picture what we're going to be like as a 50 person firm and who's really going to be carrying the entrepreneurial risk, who's going to be writing the book, and who's going to be speaking at this thing, and who's going to be handling the difficult employee issues. That's how we have to think about partnership. It's not just glory. There really is a lot of work associated with it. 

BLAIR: Talk about compensation here. Let's imagine a three partner firm, three equal partners. Do you ever see scenarios where the salaries that those partners are making are significantly different from each other?

DAVID: I do and I get really uncomfortable with it. I've set this little benchmark in my head that as soon as somebody owns 20 percent or more, they should make everybody above that, at 20 or above, should be making the same amount of money and I don't think that's ideal. It's just that as humans we tend to base our value judgments, in part, on monetary things. As much as we don't want to do that, we just default to that and I don't like the idea of partners who are owning 20 percent or more, it's not like that cut off is magic, but I don't like the idea of them getting paid differently because it signals that they bring a different importance to the firm. I don't think somebody out there speaking or doing new business is more important in a partnership than somebody doing CFO work and analyzing all that and impacting performance and efficiency and so on and so I don't want that to be reflected differently in their compensation. I do see it, to answer your question, and I am uncomfortable with it. 

BLAIR: Yeah, and I'm sure there's stress within the firm, too. I want to lie on your couch for a minute. Can we go back to the idea of a husband and wife or spouse partnerships?

DAVID: Yeah. 

BLAIR: I'm sure you've worked with dozens, maybe hundreds of them by now.

DAVID: Yeah. 

BLAIR: Do you have an overarching thought on whether these are good things or bad things and then we can dive into the nuance?

DAVID: Usually it works pretty well. I don't see huge problems with it. The downside is that it's much harder to attract and keep and promote other serious people at the firm because those upper rungs of the career ladder are taken and, unless there's a divorce or something, nobody's getting off that perch. So, the two highest rungs are already taken and so the highest somebody else can rise on that career ladder is up to X point on it. That's one of the downsides. The other downside is that nobody can have an honest, transparent discussion with one of the partners if it's about the other one because it's going to get passed on. Right? But other than that, as long as both of them are really partnership material and they're contributing at that level, I see, most of the time, it works really well.

DAVID: Something weird happened to me years ago. I was working with a firm in Chicago and we started at dinner. I know you know this is a long time ago because I don't start at dinner anymore. Right? So, we were having dinner with these two folks and I knew they weren't married even though I knew they each owned half the firm and I was getting these weird signals, like the signals you get when somebody's either having an affair or they're married. Right? Or there's some connection there. And so, I just stopped and I said, hey, I know you guys aren't married but this just feels weird to me. It was just bugging me. I should've just shut up but I just said that in the middle of our dinner. And they said, oh, that's so funny, don't worry, he said, we used to be married but we discovered that we hated being married to each other but we love running a firm together. So, we're both happily remarried but we still work together and we still own this firm together. I thought that was a weird situation.

BLAIR: And it worked?

DAVID: It worked great. Yeah, absolutely. I see most husband-wife partnerships working well. I don't see it happening all that much in large firms. It seems to happen in small firms more than large ones. 

BLAIR: Yeah. So, let that be a lesson to you, listener.

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: I don't know what the lesson is there.

DAVID: What's the lesson? 

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: We want you to have a lesson and we'll let you know later what the lesson is. 

BLAIR: Yeah. You can draw your own lesson from there. On my list is the subject of silent partners. That's not a term you hear so much anymore but, every once in awhile, I'll encounter a firm that refers to an investor and it might be a firm that's been in business for a long time, an investor or I've heard the term silent partner a few months ago and I was surprised because it's not something you hear very often.

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: What is a silent partner? When does it make sense to take one on?

DAVID: A silent partner is an investment partner you wish would be silent but isn't. 

BLAIR: They're walking around saying, yeah, I'm a silent partner in that firm.

DAVID: Yeah, exactly. 

BLAIR: Well, apparently you're not.

DAVID: Yeah. They're somebody that maybe helped you in the initial setup of the business. They contributed $500,000 or something or they helped you buy your from back from somebody and they contributed millions or maybe they were a partner and left and there was some change in their life, but you couldn't buy them out, so they're still there. I would say I've come across about 10 of those that work over the years and it's so rare that, it can work in the right circumstances, but, if we flip this around and look at this from an investor standpoint, what fool in their right mind would invest in a closely held marketing firm? It's like nobody. So, it has to be some pretty unique circumstances for that to happen and, as long as the expectations are set, then it can work, but it's pretty rare. 

BLAIR: It's usually a father in law or somebody, some sort of family member.

DAVID: Yeah. Who's temporarily decided not to pay attention to investment criteria and love their child at a certain moment. Right? 

BLAIR: God bless them all.

DAVID: Yes, right.

BLAIR: I'm just still thinking about that survey results where, I think you said 26 percent either wish they didn't have a partner or felt like they had the wrong partner. So, if that's you, if you're professional marriage, your partnership is in trouble, what do you do? You said that you step in and fix it and you said that you don't like it, but I could imagine you doing it. I could imagine you're doing it very well because your strengths that we've talked about before, you'll go in, you see your obligation to do the right thing and you'll do the right thing no matter how difficult it is for anybody. So, there's bringing in David Baker or another consultant. What else might these partners consider? Let's take a scenario we talked about in one of the most recent webcasts where one partner wants out and the other is oblivious to the dissatisfaction of his or her partner. What should that one partner do?

DAVID: I think the first thing they should do is to work with a communication coach, almost like marriage counseling but in a business setting. I think that's the first step always because it could be some pent up anger over something and usually that can be worked out. It could be and, very often it is, something that has happened more recently and you just let it fester and it was a year and a half ago and you just need to talk through it and you can save the marriage, the business marriage so to speak, because most of these things, if people will act like adults, it can happen. But then, in about maybe a third of the situations, it really needs to be a divorce and we need to do it so that the kids, the employees in this case, are harmed as little as possible and the clients and that's where you really do need an outside advisor. I mean, I do that sort of work but there are lots of people that do that. It could be somebody you're working with locally.

DAVID: I think communication though, to answer your question, is the first step. Just having an honest conversation with people, you cannot hide this stuff. I mean, everybody at the firm has known for months that this is happening and when you surface it and eventually talk with the whole team about the struggles that you're working through, they're all looking at each other saying, that's great. How come it took so long? 

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: It's just not a big surprise to them. 

BLAIR: I'm often saying to my clients, principals of firms, that there are no secrets. You think your employees don't know about the financial situation or your personal situation. They know.

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: They know and you should assume that they know. But it sounds like your advice really mirrors what you would do in a marriage. First is to go to therapy and have an outsider try to facilitate some better communication.

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: Somebody said that the biggest mistake in communication is the assumption that it has taken place.


BLAIR: So, start there and then, just like any good therapist would do, at some point the therapist would say, well, both of you, do you want to save this partnership? And, if both say yes, then you work towards saving it and if at least one party says no, then you work to dissolve it. That's when you bring in the ruthless consultants.

DAVID: Yeah, and worst case scenario, Dexter, you remember Dexter? You have somebody like Dexter. 

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: That's not me, that's you I think. You have a secret line of business on the side. But we define sin, I don't mean that religiously, but we define sin in certain ways, right? And we gloss over our own sins and we think that this partner, what he or she did, it's almost unforgivable forgetting that maybe were arrogant and we kind of overlook our own arrogance and we just assign different values to, there's gotta be some grace, too. We have to understand that a lot of other people, including our partners, have extended such grace to us over the years. Is there room for more grace in this situation? Do we really want to save this? Do we want to be merciful? And it could be that the partner you've got is just a complete asshole that really you need to be done with them in your life. That's possible but it could also be that you're hurt over something. Most anger, I think, comes from deep hurt and maybe it's time to surface that and talk about it and just see if you can save the partnership. 

BLAIR: Yeah. I had a client say to me once that guilt and resentment are two different sides of the same coin and you choose: do you want to feel guilt over your actions or do you want to do some little mental judo in your mind that lets you flip that guilt into resentment? So, if you're feeling resentful towards your partner around something, is it masking over some sense of guilt over something you've done or haven't done?

DAVID: Right. Yeah. That's such great advice. I hope that as a 58 year old I'm finally starting to mature in a few areas that. I just hope I'm a better human now and that the grace other people have extended to me over the years for some of the things that I've done or how I reacted in a certain business situations, they realize that I'm a human and that I'm still learning some of those things and we need to do the same with the people around us as well, including our partners. 

BLAIR: That's well said. I don't think many of us who are in business, who've been in business for a decade or more could be in business if we were not the beneficiaries of that grace that you talked about from others.

DAVID: Yeah.

BLAIR: So, maybe dig deep and see if we can extend it ourselves. Okay. This sounded a little bit like therapy at the end.

DAVID: All of these things do. Are we done? Am I going to have to whip out the chainsaw and pretend I'm doing manly things or is this it? 

BLAIR: I had ESOPs on my list but I think it was just another form of ownership structure but really I wanted to get to the heart of partnership and I think we've covered the topic.

DAVID: Yeah.

BLAIR: And we've run out of time, so fire up the chain saw, baby.

DAVID: Okay, good to talk to Blair.

BLAIR: You, too, David. Bye, bye.

David Baker