While the maturing of America’s economy often has been attributed to exceptional entrepreneurs—Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Sam Walton—our nation’s growth owes much more to the success of partnerships. Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Roebuck, Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson, Samuel Lord and George Washington Taylor all created companies that were immensely successful and that contributed profoundly to our way of life for well over a century.
Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner partnered with Frank Wells to build a multimedia powerhouse, and last week Eisner published a book about the benefits of partnerships in business. In "Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed," he describes the success of such partners as Warren Buffet and Charles Munger in business, Bill and Melinda Gates in philanthropy, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard in entertainment, and the Yankees’ Joe Torre and Don Zimmer in sports.
I can vouch personally for the importance of partnerships in launching a business and navigating it toward success. My own business partner, Janet Tyler, and I have always understood that neither of us ever would have started a business alone. Together, however, we leaped into the creation of Airfoil Public Relations 10 years ago with confidence.
In Eisner’s book, Warren Buffet says his business is much more fun with a partner to share his achievements than it would have been without Charlie. Janet and I felt the same way about Airfoil and from the beginning decided that “fun” would be one of our company’s six core values. On the other hand, we have disagreed on many things over the past decade. Often, Janet’s business sense rightfully trumped my enthusiasm for new opportunities, and at other times I was able to bring insights to fortuitously advance a business decision that Janet may have been reluctant to make.
Most often, however, we have found ourselves thinking about the same idea at the same time and just about completing each other’s sentence. When we were considering the establishment of a Silicon Valley office, Janet and I spent a lunch hour with a consultant whom we both knew well and trusted. After the meeting, we each got into our cars and, before we had hit the highway, we had both decided to launch the office.
Our partnership—“being in the foxhole with someone,” as Eisner described it—has enabled Janet and me to survive two national economic collapses and a burst technology bubble with only minor lacerations and a growing pride in one of the nation’s strongest technology public relations firms. We have lifted each other up during times of personal tribulation and celebrated our growth when we have thrived.
Our business is founded on teamwork. Our amazing professional staff members work closely in teams, and we team with our clients to strategize and implement programs infused with Higher Thinking. That synergy, that ability to make 1+1 equal 3, reflects the fact that our business is steeped in partnership, with a team at the top. Janet and I maintain an “I’ve-got-your-back” relationship that has kept each of us from tumbling in the wrong direction while propelling our business forward.
“Dreams Come True,” Disney advised us, and partnerships can surely help keep away the nightmares.