At the Intersection of Life & Business

Ralph and Carol Lynn On Business Partnerships: They’re Good. Until They’re Not.

By July 17, 2017 No Comments
Ralph and Carol Lynn On Business Partnerships: They’re Good. Until they’re not.

Get Back In The Game!

Long ago and far away when Carbon Based Business Units was the Web.Search.Social podcast, we had a jigsaw puzzle that we started to circulate among listeners. Each person solved the puzzle, took a photo then sent it to another listener. Then we went on hiatus, and somewhere around that time, very sexy friend of the show Alisa Meredith took possession of the puzzle. And there it disappeared.

We assume she’s not actually holding it hostage, so Alisa, it’s time to get back in the game, solve that baby and send it on its way! And if you, dear Fred, would like in on the traveling puzzle, shoot us a message in the comments, on social, or via email and we’ll add you to the list!

Traveling Begins Soon

In about two weeks we’re starting our two-month road trip to Anaheim California, where we’ll attend Podcast Movement and launch our newest product, Podcaster’s Toolbox.

We’ve talked a bit about it before, but today we’re diving a little deeper into what Podcaster’s Toolbox is, where we are, how we got here, the mistakes we made along the way and the failures we learned from.

A Bunch Of Tools

There’s a lot that goes into podcasting. From ideas to research, planning, guest booking, audio production, and editing, it takes time to produce a single episode. And it doesn’t stop there because having an episode is not as good as having one that people listen to. Even after an episode is published, you still need to have email campaigns, social promotions, graphics, and all the things that go into getting the word out.

So we started building ourselves tools to make it easier to manage our podcast workflow. I would say something like, “OMG I HATE DOING THIS!” And Ralph would come up with some kind of automation script to make it easier.

And that worked, mostly.

But we had to manage and maintain the tools, which ended up being more work. Plus there were a bunch. And they were all separate.

At some point we thought, if we find tools like this helpful, we bet other podcasters will, too. So we decided to build a business around creating a toolbox for podcasters to help automate and streamline all those aggravating, repetitious things.

Thing Went Well For Three Seconds

We started our partnership with me, Ralph, our creative director Michael, my father as CFO, and another partner responsible for sales. We were excited and ready. Until we tried to name the product.

If you’ve ever tried to name a product AND come up with a domain name at the same time, you feel our pain. It took us a year to come up with the name because we didn’t want to be either too clever or too boring. Plus, there was the practical reality of needing a name that wasn’t already taken by some domain squatter.

But our bigger problem was that we were out of synch with one of our partners. Ralph, Michael and me have been working together for a long time and we have a very collaborative creative process. For example, when we named the company, we went back and forth with lists and ideas and spreadsheets (and arguments and some snark) for a very long time. In spite of disagreements and frustration we all enjoyed the process and we ended up with something we all loved.

On the flip side, our other partner believed we should all stick to our individual roles. He believed, for example, that as our creative director, Michael should design the logo and we should all stay out of it. His argument was that we had asked Michael on board for a reason and we should trust in his judgement.

Whether you want to collaborate or not in your business, it’s up to you. But you have to be in synch with your other partners or it will just cause frustration. And that’s where we ended up. Some of us wanted to collaborate. Some of us wanted to separate responsibilities. Nobody was happy.

The Partnership Breaks Up

In June of 2016, as we were preparing to go to Podcast Movement to announce our product, the partner who didn’t agree with our approach to building the business decided to drop out.

That left us in the lurch, one person short of what we had expected.

In the long run, it turned out to be a good thing. We had too many disagreements and nobody would have been happy. But even though it was the best thing for the business and for us in the long run, it still affected us personally.

Our lost partner was a friend, so we were not only relating to him as a business partner but as a friend. We didn’t make the best of business decisions because we were thinking like friends.

The fact is, you can’t separate business from personal. What happens to you personally affects your business. It affects how you feel. It affects what you do. We went through some personal unhappiness and a long depression dealing with the partnership breakup.

We Move On

The breakup set us back. Not only being one man down, but being personally affected, meant that we didn’t get where we wanted to be. We made a lot of promises to a lot of people and failed to deliver on them. We set launch date after launch date and missed every one. Then on top of being in a bad place, we were feeling pretty miserable about our own failures. We got to a point where we were afraid to say anything at all because we had little faith in our own ability to deliver.

But we didn’t give up. This is our business and our baby. We know it can grow and we know we’re onto something that people want. So we moved on. It took some time, but we picked up and got ourselves going again. We refocused.

This is “do or die” time as we gear up for Podcast Movement. We’ve streamlined operations in our marketing business so we would have more time to focus on Podcaster’s Toolbox. And we dedicated ourselves to launching an MVP (minimum viable product) with only a small set of key features so people can start using them and we can iterate from there.

In fact, releasing a product with a bunch of features is dumb. We’d rather give people the things we know they want, then listen to what they need. We’re better off starting small and growing.

We’ve also gotten pretty good at firing clients. Not in a burning bridges way but in a way where we’ve focused solely on projects that hit that sweet spot between “good fit” and “profitable.” That has given us some much needed extra time to focus on what we really want to do instead of what we think we “have to” do.

Lessons Learned

For me, one of the biggest lessons is that any partnership needs good leadership. If you’re working with friends or people you already have a relationship with, it can be tough to give directives.

It was tough for me to tell friends what to do, or to recognize that we weren’t in synch from a business standpoint. It’s been tough for me to give my father directives. He’s my father… I don’t tell HIM what to do! But I’m the CEO and for the business to succeed, I need to be a leader. I need to be sure our team is working together, that we’re all doing our jobs, that we’re all being heard. Even if it’s uncomfortable.

Also, patience. Things don’t always go the way you want. Sometimes they take a lot longer than you’d like. It gets frustrating. It gets draining. You’ve got to deal with it, adapt and keep going.

Homework

Do you have a business story? A tough time, a failure, a lesson learned that has made you better and stronger? Share it with us. We’d love to talk about it!