Partnership quickly crumbles
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
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
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
"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.