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Success Is Not a Destination, It's a Trip
Cycle 1: Exploring Partnership (3 0f 6)

I was 27 years old, and it was spring of 1984. One week after I took the job, the financial backer of the comic publishing company pulled out. There went 50 percent of the firm's business.

Rather than lay me off, or either of the other people on staff, the owner went into a complete tailspin. He would come in, but he wouldn't turn on the lights, or take phone calls. He would just put his head down on his desk in his darkened office.

The rest of us were understandably freaked. Bills were coming in, but no one was doing anything about finding the money to pay them. One of the other employees–Karin was her name– and I began sneaking out for coffee, saying we could run the firm better than that guy, and pretty quickly we came up with a deal to save the business, and so to save our jobs.

Karin and I went to Richard–the owner–and offered to assume his debts, if he would get out of town and leave us the business. We bought him a ticket to San Francisco, where he had a friend who would take him in, and we packed him up and put him on the plane and took over his biz.

Karin took the hard job of laying off the other employees, and we got to work on turning that business around. That was a very exciting time for me. Karin was a charismatic person, full of talent and rock-n-roll style. Karin was 25, very attractive, and the studio was a pretty fun place to hang around. There were admirers so thick around the place I had to sweep them off the doorstep in the morning.

It was a happy time, and business grew, and we hired new staff, and they teased us about being like Michael and Elliot on "30-Something." And we were.

What we did, was to set about learning to run the business in a profitable way. We worked with a consultant for a short time, and he taught us about "FAMP" which is an abbreviation for "Finance, Administration, Marketing, Personnel". He taught us to pay attention to these four aspects, to guide our business toward success. Karin took "F" and "P" , finance and personnel, and I took "A" and "M", administration and marketing.
We pitched for new clients, and worked hard on the jobs that we got, and the business began to turn around.

We both came out of that hippie commune background, and everything we did was a collective process. We involved our employees in every decision we made, and every decision took a long time to make. What I remember most was agonizing about whether to buy a computer or a photocopier. We finally agreed we needed both.
And that was the accomplishment of our first three years together: getting the business turned around, staffed and set up with the equipment necessary for growth. Our partnership was working well. The future looked pretty bright.

Then, in the summer of 1986 the snake entered paradise.

Karin found someone to love. I was there when it happened: we were meeting with a printer we knew, who had come to talk to us about some paper samples...we were sitting around the table in our conference room, and the sun was going down and the light was all rosy and golden in there, and Donovan – that was his name – and Karin were talking about papers, and staring into each others' eyes as if paper were the most important, the most significant, decision anyone had ever faced. Unnoticed, I slipped away.
That was a Friday. On Saturday she bought tickets to a concert and invited him, and he bought tickets to a concert and invited her, and the two of them were off and running on a FLAMING romance, and it was beautiful to watch, in some measure, but also...

I could feel the pull. She was leaving me for another.
Well, the summer went by, and come to find out he wasn't REALLY a printer, he was an artist just working as a printer, and soon moved to Minneapolis to study ceramics, fine arts.

Karin did the commuter romance thing that winter, and by the spring of 1987 it was getting hard on all of us. She was out of town from Fridays to Mondays, and I was the one who was always around when an emergency came down and had to be dealt with... When she came to me and said she wanted out of the partnership, we both knew that was what had to happen.

So we pulled out some file folders, and she wrote "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" on hers, and I wrote "Acquisitions and Mergers" on mine. In the summer of 1987 I purchased her share of the partnership. Luckily our consultant had set us up with a good partnership agreement, and the negotiations were friendly.

R ead more. Cycle 2: Sole Proprietor »

My life stories

Road Map

Cycle 1: Exploring Partnership

Cycle 2: Destination Sole Proprietor. 1987 - 1990

Cycle 3: Destination Lean and Mean, 1990-1993

Cycle 4: Pearly Gates, 1993-1996


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