Partnership quickly crumbles

   Many business owners look forward to the day when their children join the company work force, continuing the legacy into the next generation.
   Personally, Iím beginning to dread the day. If last week was any indication, my kids will have me thrown out on the streets the first chance they get.
   Muffin is only 10 and Buffy a seemingly innocent 8, but I got a glimpse of how small business works on its smallest level when they came home a couple of weeks ago with boxes of Girl Scout cookies to sell. It wasnít pretty.
   On the other hand, it was motivational Ė I was motivated to retire before they can get their greedy little hands on my legacy.
   It began innocently enough. Ignoring their fatherís history of disastrous partnerships, they combined their collective cookies and formed a team, pledging to share all income equally.
   Fools, both of them. I had made the same mistake a couple of times, but I said nothing. It would be more fun watching the little partnership crumble over time, just like mine always did.
   Still in the honeymoon stage, they holed up in their room and plotted strategy. I first sensed trouble when Muffin emerged an hour later with the partnershipís initial research question.
   "Daddy," she asked sweetly, pencil and paper in hand, "can you please tell us the five richest neighborhoods in Marin?"
   They obviously didnít want to waste time with people who could only afford a box or two. They had their sights set on selling cases.
   "Youíre staying in our neighborhood," I replied, squelching their grandiose plan.
   Muffin was disappointed. "Weíll be done with our neighbors in a couple of hours," she said. "We need fresh blood."
   Knowing I had to satisfy her ambitions somehow, I naively suggested she might be able to sell a few boxes at the Super Bowl party we were giving.
   Buffy came rushing in. "A Super Bowl party? How many people?"
   I shrugged. "About 30."
   "Yes!" they screamed. And off they went to the headquarters of greed to plot more strategy.
   It would be just like a trade show Ė customers coming to them. With only a few days before the party, their marketing department went into high gear. 
   By game day, they had a booth, promotional literature and enough signs to wallpaper three rooms. They had also whipped each other into a capitalistic frenzy.
   When the first guests/customers arrived, my wife and I watched, horrified, as Muffin and Buffy abandoned their cute little booth and practically tackled the poor couple as they walked in the door.
   The most fascinating aspect of their actions is that Muffin and Buffy are generally very shy. But this wasnít life, this was business. Timid kids canít cut the mustard when it comes to cookie sales. And, as evidenced by the quick exit from the booth, marketing will only take you so far.
   Begging, pleading, demanding, cajoling . . .thatís where the real sales are made. It certainly worked for Muffin and Buffy. No one got past the entry without a purchase. Their enthusiasm only dimmed once, when a customer who had neglected to bring his wallet (he wonít be invited back) requested credit.
   By this time, Muffin and Buffy were packing a substantial amount of cash. They huddled for some time and then announced the first financial decision of their partnership.
   "All right, weíll give you credit," said Muffin, as Buffy reached for my wallet and pulled out the required amount, "but make sure you pay my dad back."
   It was at that point I realized the days of owning my own business were numbered. These kids were sharks, sacrificing their shyness, their humility, and finally their father, just to make a buck.
   I also realized, with a twinge of reluctant pride, I could double my companyís sales if these kids would just grow up.
   Finally, as the guests loaded their cookies into their cars and departed, Muffin and Buffy retired to their room to count their money for the last time. Walking past, I couldnít help hearing Muffin note, rather acidly, that they were $4.30 short.
   Buffy blamed Muffin. Muffin blamed Buffy. The partnership was over within seconds.
   Yep, they were definitely following in their fatherís footsteps.

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