Fit and Finish: When companies get divorced

Partnership breakups always sting, but can be creative.
Chris Meiorin
October 15, 2018
By Chris Meiorin
As I prepare to write this column, I am about to celebrate 30 years of “marriage” – in the sense of a long-standing relationship with a supplier. For the most part, it has been a very rewarding partnership.
I have shown much respect and support towards my partner, speaking very favorably about them and dedicating time and effort toward their wellbeing and development. We’ve worked through some tough times and had always planned to grow old together. But things changed. Actually, in my view, they changed because of outside influences that weren’t favorable to the relationship. They lost respect, they lost vision, they forgot about our past and didn’t care about our future. Although it wasn’t a marriage in the classical sense, but rather a business partnership, it still feels like a marriage in trouble.

Regular readers will know I have come to value the business relationships I have formed over the years. They are important to not only me, but they give our work group confidence and comfort. I believe in promoting our business partners and leveraging our strengths in an effort to promote their businesses. It’s not to suggest, however, that it’s a selfless act. Actually, it’s quite the opposite – in return for this level of support I hope to gain value: value in the form of price, quality and service. It’s a great model for both sides of the relationship...until one partner decides otherwise.

I read Mark McCormack’s book What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School the same year I started our fenestration business. One of the key takeaways from the book was that partnerships will ultimately fail, and that it’s not a matter of if a partnership will fail but when. And the longer the partnership, the messier the breakup. Interestingly enough, though I read this book over 30 years ago, it’s the one point that had really stuck and the one point I continue to ignore in practice. However, with every failure, partnership or otherwise, there is often a silver lining. It took a few failures to figure this out but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. In fact, it might be suggested that if you look for failure you will find success. This remains an interesting philosophy as we move our respective businesses through a rather tumultuous time.

Business partnerships can take on different forms. It can take the form of an equity partner, a collaborative partnership or a support-based partnership where respective companies work together to support each other’s businesses. You can find that last kind in a social media engagement group, and it’s this type of partnership that I find most interesting at this juncture of my business career. It allows each of the respective partners to make a contribution in a fashion and in the environment in which they are most comfortable working. In my case, I seek out opportunities that allow me to create, with this column being a perfect example. In return for my efforts here, my contribution allows me open dialogue with not only the publication, but with my peers, content providers and industry professionals, all of whom I value and appreciate very much. But these reciprocal relationships can take on different forms, perhaps between vendors and purchasers, and these I find equally if not more valuable as those creativity-based collaborations. That being said, it’s important to monitor these relationships and when the contribution is longer reciprocal, it’s important to recognize this fact and move your efforts to a vendor or customer that recognizes and appreciates contributions and returns the favour.

It’s hard to sum up the 700 words I’m mandated to write, but my advice would most certainly be to pick your partners wisely and, when it no longer works, get out and find a new partner that is as interested in your business or personal gain as you are in theirs. And perhaps take a cue from another book by McCormack: Never Wrestle With A Pig.


Chris Meiorin is owner/operator of Euro Vinyl Windows and Doors.

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