Partnerships. Like marriage - minus the sex.

Why-Business-Partnerships-Fail-1

The strengths of a good business partnership outweigh the challenges, but the weight of differences that arise can fast drag everyone down. I've had some great, some passable, and a couple of deadly toxic disasters – most recently with a couple who I invited into a new venture wholly based on my own successful experiences.

From day one I found their bickering and arguments faintly amusing, sitting cross-armed in a Surry Hills café at our regular meetings and steering them back to the agenda. The male was somewhat passive while the female was ferociously opinionated and single minded. Their demeanour was a flag I'll read early in future – our values, ethics and style were not aligned.

Through the creation of that partnership, which lasted eight years before collapsing in vicious legal 'lawfare', I missed a second flag that eventually overcame me. The lady was married to a lawyer who structured the partnership agreement. Not just any lawyer, a scrappy, attack dog of a guy who was semi-retired. He had all the time in the world to 'assist' her with her business.

These flags should have been obvious but eight years earlier I was more resilient and certain of my optimism. I believed then that I could navigate and negotiate any difficulties, applying the art of concession and the voice of reason. How wrong that was, and how different I now am, remoulded by the most passively violent dispute I've ever endured.

At the four year mark half way through we had out customary post tour lunch at Catalina, where she raised a new agenda. Lawyer had told her the business was growing and it needed to be run more formally. We would hence meet monthly, which was proscribed in the shareholder agreement. At that time she failed to recognise my counter points: the meetings were un-necessary, and thus far they – not me – had rescheduled many meetings as they were so busy with their magazine deadlines.

This was another mistake of my judgement. These people had a monthly trade magazine the same as I did. We faced the same challenges and surely would together be a great forum for collusion and strategies. But that did not happen, they are insular and uninterested in anything outside their orbit. They shrugged off discussions about media and more alarmingly grew hostile towards any mention of ENTECH. This was insane, since ENTECH was the very model this roadshow was based upon. The lessons learned in one assisted the other.

Irrational and annoying events multiplied; I would be asked the same questions year in, often about something they had on file from previous. Mistakes were made with simple things like the name of their exhibitor. They would contract a sale, I would raise the invoices and collect the payments and deal with the client for logistics. They would then refer to the client in another name or acronym. There was low discipline.

As the shows grew larger the team did two. My original team of three changed over the first four years and then Kate joined us to oversee registration and catering. We added a touring production manager. Female partner found problems with the catering each and every year, berating Kate -- who then proved her wrong using paperwork from last year.

Kate was told, 'you don't make decisions here, you are no body'.

Covid stopped the business for two years, during which the tensions went away although the transactions continued as we refunded 2020 and tried to rebook 2021. Then we refunded 2021, and put 2022 on sale.

At start of 2022 our first business meeting for two years was preceded by a draft agenda which attempted to recast the roles we had traditionally contributed. They did the sales and the marketing, I did the logistics. A remarkable line item in the meeting agenda revolved around the production manager.

"As you turned your ENTECH focus to America, you brought in the production manager to cover for you in the future, so you should pay for him", she said.

At the meeting that was quickly extinguished because the production manager commenced earlier than the USA experiment, and the role was plainly necessary due to the growth of the business. Then the clanger: "We have shut down our magazine now, so we have more time so I can do Kate's job", she loftily informed me. "We can save money".

Struggling to breathe through seething anger, I turned that one around stone cold dead. "Two things lady. One, you don't know what Kate does and you sure can't do any of it; and two, the company doesn't pay her, she is part of my partnership contribution". I was almost over the edge, as they backed down.

It was the portent of trouble incoming, because the next Zoom meeting she went in again with the same trope. I lost control and shouted into the screen for minutes on end, as she upped and walked out. I then addressed her partner, and advised they would need to buy me out as the partnership was over.

We did the May tour during which I attempted to educate them on the logistics thinking that an orderly handover would happen with them buying me out. They went through the motions for two shows, then stopped bothering for the final three. I suggested a brief debrief the day they didn't turn up for load in, to happen afterwards. "We don't need it", they replied.

Tour over we packed it all up, split the money – a cool quarter million for them and same for me, and then I tried to get the sale mechanism under way. "We require the accounts be finalised for June 30 first. Then we will have our accountant negotiate the sale", they informed me.

This was not how things get done, but I agreed. Their accountant took over from our accountant, and went into slow mode. June 30 passed, July was rolling along, and suddenly the agenda went to a Director Meeting at which the lawyer was to be the proxy for the male partner. I was to face off against him and his spouse, and the agenda kept getting more and more sinister.

They made an offer that was so conditional I rejected it outright. I counter offered almost $300,000 more to get them out. They produced a draft deed of sale that said if they didn't buy me out, they could walk away and open up in competition. They threatened to take the dispute to the Supreme Court, and seek costs from me. "People we trust say we should pay you nothing", they said.

At that stage I appointed an uptown law firm to protect my interests. I told them I wanted the firm put in the hands of a legitimate liquidator who would then sell the firm to one of us on a best offer basis.

Eventually that is exactly what happened. Our offer was less than their offer, because we identified the risk they flagged: that they would open anew and compete against us if we won the business.

After legal and liquidator costs we probably eventually will get very little or nothing at all.

The washup of this bitter tale is that they lost their magazine in Covid. I didn't – Jason Allen purchased it prior and managed to navigate it through. After a week of remorse and internal recriminations, I resolved that I was free of the constant stress of dealing with these humourless dour and greedy vultures.

They now have a new company granted rights to the name by the liquidator. They have the customer base they always had. Those exhibitors are all buying tickets on the Titanic because they will sleep walk into an operational mess with no infrastructure and no operational experience.

Unlike any other tradeshow, my roadshow model is a split second machine with a lot of moving parts that comes together in a few hours. They have no idea.

And I'm free!

FOOTNOTE:

A shareholder and partnership agreement should have clear and defined pathways if there is a dispute. This one just suggested 'good endeavours' and didn't have a mediation framework. I reckon the lawyer was always looking for the scenario that played out, and probably pulled the strings that brought the company down. 

×
Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

My first BIG concert
Gigs, bogans and doing sound. How or why I do this...
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Sunday, 21 April 2024

Recent Posts

17 July 2023
In a tragic tale, ex-pat Australian sound engineer Gerry Georgettis took his own life on board a United Airlines flight from Washington to Los Angeles in early February. The flight was diverted to Denver, after crew discovered Gerry in the lavatory, ...
21 May 2023
'I don't do interviews' he said. But he did, and he spoke of Tina, Pink, Joe and Olivia. This is a story about a back-room operator who is one of the most successful and respected managers in the global music industry. Yet most people don't know who ...
30 January 2023
It wasn't until 1972 and Led Zeppelin. Or it may have been The Arts Factory in Goulburn street Sydney. The seeds were sown from the trippy days of psychedelic lightshows, and then Sunbury showed us scale. Rock music had arrived, and people suddenly r...
22 January 2023
It was 2004 and I was flush with cash, having sold ENTECH and just completed a Government funded training tour of the top end with Crocfest. My registered training organisation had just moved into our Rydalmere campus, freshly accredited and were run...
29 December 2022
What do you say to someone who has been crushed by reality? Partner split? Death of someone close? Loss? Chances are you'll say nothing because I've had stunning lows and I did notice at the time the sight of many 'friends' rushing out the door. Let'...
23 December 2022
My book, now available free to read here.  Download PDF File Here...
13 November 2022
This was one of my best expose's..... published in May 2012. Summer holiday season the USA has more than 70 large State Fairs, most offering concerts. For country rock act Sugarland it was peak touring time, and rolling into Indiana on August 13 last...
13 November 2022
At the end of 1976 I sold my lightshow business Zapco to Roger Barratt who was soon to be acclaimed as Australia's greatest lighting designer. We met in late 1975 after Roger told Rob Nicholls at Strand Electric that he needed someone to look after h...
12 November 2022
The strengths of a good business partnership outweigh the challenges, but the weight of differences that arise can fast drag everyone down. I've had some great, some passable, and a couple of deadly toxic disasters – most recently with a couple who I...
03 July 2022
It's the morning after an Oz Icon's gig with feature artist retired cricketer Mike Whitney. Arriving at suburban Sydney pub mid arvo in the biblical downpour of July, the manager is very pleasant. This aspect of my Gig Life (V4.0) is deeply appreciat...
24 December 2020
It was late 1981. NSW faced petrol shortages due to 'industrial knuckle' as Kurnel refinery workers went on strike. So like some people who really needed it, I hoarded petrol. This photo is in the photo gallery of my book, illustrating the chapter 'S...
17 December 2020
My brothers and I had zero interactions with relatives - there were none that our parents chose to know. They were all back in the United Kingdom in any case. The notion of grand parents, aunties and uncles was simply never discussed. It was just us ...
12 December 2020
At the inflection point Australian government planners were scouting every cold store and ice rink, to plan for a possible 150,000 pandemic deaths in 2020. Police chiefs were meeting with defence planners to strategise the breakdown of soci...
05 December 2020
My daughter would follow me around like a puppy. We are very close, and I'm always having little heart leaps thinking of her, now mid 30's, down in Wollongong running that little church with Nathan. Her kids are my grand kids. I'm super fortunat...
26 November 2020
n 1985 we wanted a child. Then one horrible afternoon up at the Chatswood shops, Caroline went down. Sarah stood there crying. As the ambulance raced them to Royal North Shore I got the call. She had an ectopic pregnancy – a fertilised egg implanted ...
22 November 2020
After you have your book ready to roll, you enter the tedious phase. For me this was firstly about whether to self publish, or to find a publisher. The discussions I had revealed a publisher would 'legal' the manuscript and I know that would demolish...
21 November 2020
It's November 2020, the year that is seared on us. I'm fortunate with work, health, love and a welded-on optimism that keeps me happy. Best of all, I am now packing and mailing my book every day to people who have often contributed more than the cove...
20 November 2020
I completely skipped talking about our CX TV studio in my book! Between 2011 and 2017 we had some amazing fun in there, shooting a weekly show 'The Hump' every Wednesday, and doing heaps of video reviews of (usually boring) inanimate lumps of equipme...
19 November 2020
With Caroline and I lurching towards marriage, we doted on her daughter Sarah and started planning our own production business. This picture shows my mate Glenn Bolton with his then gf Jane. Glenn's band Top Kat was where I learned to mix sound, usua...
15 November 2020
Back in 1993 I had to confront the truth and grit of journalism. Rick Doolan called and asked me to come out to his house. To talk before he died. Over the past 30 years, the obituaries, the funerals and the grind of our trips around the sun wore me ...
15 November 2020
Did a few years as the personal lighting director to Leslie Walford, a flamboyant, gay interior designer. He had a society column in the Sydney Morning Herald, and a large shopfront in Double Bay. Lovely guy, he ran the Art Gallery Christmas Party. T...
14 November 2020
He's on one of my ACT Concert W's, 5' x 3' x 3' and 110kg. 2 x 15" drivers. MASSIVE low end! (Click to see more). Pix by Bob King...
14 November 2020
Security guy at right is now quite deaf...... (Pic by Bob King) ...
14 November 2020
An outdoor gig we did with The Saints. He has a nice carton of goon....... (Click to see more). Pix by Bob King...
14 November 2020
In 1997 we took ENTECH to Melbourne, and had an excellent event despite much organisational chaos. We were full of ourselves, Caroline and I. Having the big guy from PLASA visit the show, wanting to buy it. Swimming in money. Upgrading the BMW. Buyin...
13 November 2020
My current gig is Community Transport, driving older clients around. We help other community organisations like Addison Road Food Pantry. They distribute and sell food, often things near expiration date but also fresh fruit and vegetables. This day I...
10 November 2020
Back in 2011, long after I'd sold ENTECH to a big-box tradeshow conglo, they co-located it with SMPTE. That is the film and TV tradeshow. Both were in decline, so they reasoned running them together would save money. They could have shared the saving...
08 November 2020
My book doesn't dwell on a crappy upbringing, but sure does tell it like it was. I just saw this - a report that Balquhain at Blackheath has been sold. It was re-purchased by a Fairfax, as that family first built it as their weekender. We had a ...
08 November 2020
An email landed the other day from a guy I haven't seen since 1988. David Glover had read my book, and reached out to share some strangely common threads. We had some beers last night to compare life notes, from when we both started as young lig...
07 November 2020
​New York is my favourite American city, and features in my book when I took Australian Monitor amplifiers there in 1987. But it was dangerous back then - I met a colleague at a coffee place. After I left, (with Kev the koala - read my book for ...
03 November 2020
My editor Graeme Hague gave me some feedback at the end, after I'd paid him. Frankly I expected more of a critique but he was accurate with a few observations. "Some people will skip over the aviation chapters", he said, "and you didn't really explai...
02 November 2020
I spent 20 years with Caroline, with whom we share a daughter Jess and my step-daughter Sarah. Clearly she features in my book, 'this Could be Serious' as she was part of the start of a lot of my enterprises and a very powerful business par...
01 November 2020

This Blog is everything that is NOT in my new book. It's a collection of very random, un-edited pieces. Gives me the chance to let you hear my voice, and see some pictures. 

01 November 2020
Julius Grafton's much anticipated memoire; 'This Could be Serious' covers a life well lived, from the slums of Darlinghurst to a career across the music industry as a roadie, production owner, and publisher of industry journal 'CX Magazine'...
01 November 2020
It was just after lunch on Saturday, I picked up Chloe in Lillyfield for a trip to Potts Point. She was waiting, dressed in a shimmering blue shift, high above the knees with a deep spray on tan. Straight up it was chats-ville, 'I'm on my way to a he...
01 November 2020
Yolanda was there too, and the ring was a strip of black PVC tape from the roll my stepson left in the car. He uses it to hold up his soccer socks. We were all debating the possibility of a drive-by wedding, but this was not really practical as we we...
01 November 2020
​It's almost peak hour in Sydney, the city the designers gave up on because of its harbour. If they'd filled in it in and put roads on the top, a driver could navigate without a mapping mind meld. But I found the building in Broadmeadow and it had a ...
01 November 2020
I was just cleaning up the archive and I found these false starts. This first one is downright melancholy. Not sure who I am lamenting here. Try as I may the detachment is longer than I wanted. To lose her love was a wound that while stitched and sca...
01 November 2020
The repartee stays imprinted. 'My sister and I are orphans' said the guitarist with a tone of melancholy as the much younger vocalist strutted around in an awesome leather jumpsuit, holding a riding crop. 'We were raised by gypsies in Romania. I have...
01 November 2020
I've had four - and they were all different! At home in Chatswood Caroline and I were married by a celebrant. It rained so we moved inside and did the ceremony in the front hall. Her dad Frank gave her away, which was sweet. Janelle and I h...
31 October 2020
​Like almost every other roadie, I learned on the job. The easy way and the hard way. By the time this picture was taken it was January 1983 and hot as can be. I had a contract with 2SM, the AM radio station under threat from 2MMM. They were hosting ...
31 October 2020
Perm rake. Can of Brut 33 spray. Six cassette mix tapes. Wrigley chewing gum. Condom (small fit). Hipflask of Southern Comfort. November edition of Penthouse with centrefold stuck together. Cheque book. Biro. Diary. ...
31 October 2020
Kate and I were talking as we drove to work on Friday. It was early, I had a 7am start at my Community Transport gig, and I drop her at a nearby school down the road where she teaches Year 3/4 composite. Her students are suspended if they hit each ot...
31 October 2020
With a rough draft of 61 chapters, I sent the 412 pages to Officeworks for printing. Stuart Coupe had told me he prints his drafts - many of them - for editing. It did make it easier - seeing the chapters in sequence I went to work with highlight pen...
20 October 2020
I choose the most difficult process to write my debut memoire, 'This Could be Serious'. Grounded by the pandemic, I opened up my archive of hundreds of articles, outpourings, notes and blather. I chose a preliminary batch of 40, deemed suitable. I ha...

Recent Blog Posts

Chapter One - I Was A Roadie

cover art

iTunes asset

Amazon Kindle 768x218

bookbeat

kobo

Apple Books 768x218

google play

scribd

audiobooks

hoopla

storytell

Log in

Login to your account

Username *
Password *
Remember Me