MERITS OF PARTNERSHIPS
The concept of joint partnership in business is one I hesitate to promote merely because I have seen a lot of people start out brilliantly as partners then end up tearing each other and the business apart. It’s my personal view so when people ask me my opinion, or whether I would encourage equal partnership in business, I tell them that it is like asking if a joint account between married couple is advisable. Some married people would reject the idea straight away and they would have their reasons. Some others are ambassadors of that practice because they’d seen it work. In both cases, either in business or marriage, the success of joint partnership would depend on the maturity of the partners and their commitment to the business or venture.
An equal partner shoulders 50% of the costs and brings in his/her own energy into the business. Handled well, a partnership should take the business further and should achieve more in a shorter time frame. When both partners bring their skills, experience, contacts and capital into the business, there are less mistakes and more diversification. The burden of leadership is halved and the decisions are not impulsive.
The problem with equal partnership comes up when the roles are not well-defined. Sometimes one partner is seen as becoming dominant especially if the other partner is less visible. Decision making sometimes become long drawn and tedious as debates over the minutest detail could take ages to resolve. Distrust is very often a factor that comes up between the partners in the cause of the business and this can collapse the business.
I have run businesses with partners although we were not equal partners but most times the same problems occur. Little misunderstandings could have dire consequences on the business and sometimes, the success of the business may become its doom.
That was what happened to two young men who at a time took the media industry by storm. I will call them Tim and Vic. They had been friends since secondary school and lived together the four years they were at the university. When they graduated, they worked in an advertising agency for about three years and decided to go off on their own. They started a PR firm and a little bit of events promotion. PR firms were not many then, that service was offered by the major advertising companies and so Tim and Vic were like pioneers. Vic was the creative, the administrator and the details man. Tim was the social butterfly who went to parties, marketed the company and negotiated deals. They were impressive.
In four years they had made great inroads and had even received industry awards as trailblazers. They had an impressive clientele that kept growing. Then problems erupted. Vic was resentful of the fact that he was dealing with all the problems of the business while Tim went from one event to the other and got photographed with all the big names. Being the point man, it was Tim that clients asked to see. It didn’t also help that Tim’s social outings came at a cost to the company. Vic was fed up. He felt he did all work and got the short end of the stick.
Their problem degenerated quickly because each person felt he was the backbone of the company. In less than three weeks, they separated with the aspiration of running their individual companies. They both failed and later took jobs in other people’s companies.
Many joint partners have suffered the same fate as Tim and Vic but there are several people out there whose partnership ventures have continued to wax stronger.
Domenico Dolce and Stephano Gabbana started their luxury fashion house (Dolce & Gabbana) in 1985 and they get bigger yearly. William Proctor and James Gamble started their business almost 200 years ago and Proctor and Gamble is a leading world corporation now.
There is a couple in Nigeria that have a good example of a partnership that works. The man was the obstetrician/gynaecologist and his wife was the paediatrician and they basically ran a well-structured and well-documented family clinic. Twenty years into their marriage, the couple decided to go their separate ways but to keep the business. Many people were sceptical, they predicted that the clinic would close down or be dismembered. The couple merely smiled and that hospital is still up and running now. The children who are all medical doctors are running it.
For a partnership to survive the many knocks that come at businesses, the articles of that business and its structure must be well planned and articulated. Partners should agree on key issues from the very beginning and communication should be consistent and clear.
The partners should ascertain that their vision and values are aligned; this would halve the problem of tedious decision making. Honesty, equal commitment to the company objectives and joint business planning would help cement a relationship that can sustain a partnership.
My preference will be a partnership that leaves one person in charge. This safeguards the lifespan of the business even if the other partners pull out.
Fatherhood with Ibe
DEALING WITH PERSONAL LOSS (Part 1)
The Osemes were well known in the part of the GRA where my family lived in Benin City. Chief Oseme was a big boss in his company and he had a very large mansion that he occupied with his wife, four children and a battalion of relatives and servants. Mrs. Oseme was beautiful, kind and generous, especially to children. Their home was like a Mecca of some sort to most of the kids in that neighbourhood. After church service, every Sunday, any decently dressed child could walk into the Oseme’s enormous compound as Madam’s visitor. Mrs. Oseme would ask for the kids to be given soft drinks, biscuits and nuts. They would play card games, ludo and charades. It was a treat that children could not resist so every Sunday, she could play hostess to over 30 kids.
I couldn’t participate in this weekly feast, although I seriously wanted to. Going to another family to ‘hustle’ for food and snacks was an offence for which my father personally dispensed 10 ‘concentrated’ strokes of the cane for a first time offender. It was generally believed that no sane child would repeat an offence for which my Dad had flogged you but if, on the very plausible case of ‘pushed by temporary insanity,’ you commit the offence a second time, the punishment was three days of isolation topped off with a week of hard labour and those requisite strokes of cane. My father did not encourage what he called ‘shameful behaviour.’ So, although the idea of a free glass of soft drink, assorted biscuits/cookies and cashew nuts were quite appealing, I stayed away from the Oseme’s weekly junior fest and missed the opportunity of joining the other boys to watch our idol, Etinosa Oseme, at close quarters.
Eti was the first daughter of the Osemes. She looked ravishingly beautiful and was like any princess in the world. Although she was pampered and doted on by the entire adult community of that GRA, she was very lively and friendly. During her vacations, many of the kids that went to the Oseme’s house every Sunday went more to catch a glimpse of her than to eat the delicacies served. Throughout the week, stories would pass from one house to the other about how Eti smiled at this person or how she brought a glass of water for another person that was choking on his biscuits. The entire attention of both the girls and boys seemed to be on Eti. Most of the little girls tried to talk or dress like her and the boys paid special attention to their appearances because they wanted to look their best in the event that she made an appearance during their visits. Some boys were said to have fought over who had more rights to Eti’s attention. It was really crazy!
I don’t know if Eti ever knew the kind of feelings she evoked among the kids. She would probably have laughed it off if she knew. She was that kind of a person; a jolly fellow who treated her elders with utmost respect no matter their status in life and her juniors with kindness and affection. The few times she’d followed her parents to our house for a visit, I’d seen why both old and young loved her. Eti was about five years older than me at the time and I do not exaggerate when I say that she was like a burst of sunshine wherever she went.
One holiday season, she was in the university then – maybe her second year, we came back from the boarding school to meet the news making the rounds. Eti was getting married! There was quite a buzz in the area. She was so young, some people noted, what was the hurry to get married? The neighbourhood boys were disappointed of course; their princess was being taken away and by someone that they did not know. The mothers were excited at the event of an upcoming wedding and all the fanfare that was supposed to come with it. Visitors trouped in and out of the Osemes’ compound as plans for the wedding seemed to hit fever pitch. The Sunday visits became merrier. We all waited in anticipation. I think everyone of us kids just wanted to witness the wedding and hoped that the groom-to-be was a prince worthy of our princess.
The wedding was supposed to hold on the first Saturday in September, just a few days before most of us were due back in school. My dad had casually said we could all attend the wedding ceremony so there was great anticipation even in my house. Then we heard the most unexpected and devastating news – Eti was dead; she had returned home 10 days ahead of the wedding date. That same day, she slipped on the stairs, bled profusely, some said she suffered a spontaneous miscarriage, and she died before she could get medical attention.
It was one of the saddest events that I could remember. It was as if there was a blackout in the neighbourhood. Many shops were closed for days. Children sat around silently and gloomily in twos and threes. The grief was shattering. Instead of the joyous occasion of a wedding, there was the gloom and anguish of a terrible loss and an interment.
Every time that I hear of the loss of a loved one, I remember the devastation of losing Etinosa, a girl who barely knew me but who represented so much beauty and sunshine to my young mind. I remember how the entire community went into mourning for the young life. Lastly, I remember the grief of Eti’s family and how they tried so much to keep going despite their pain.
As everyone mourned Eti, we all prayed never to have that experience again. But like they say when trouble comes, it comes in torrents. The pains of the Osemes were far from over….
Next edition we conclude the saga of the Osemes
***To everyone who has endured the loss of a loved one, I wish you God’s divine peace and strength. May the words you hear help you heal and give you reasons to go on.
My family and I especially commiserate with David Adeleke and his fiancée over the sad loss of their dear child.