2 Small Business Chiefs was first published on Women in Focus.

Women in Focus is a website and initiative by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.  It is a place for women to be inspired, informed and connected with other women in business in Australia and around the world.  Angela Vithoulkas, CEO of VIVO Cafe Group, radio broadcaster of Eagle Waves Radio and public speaker, will be the Guru on the Business Beat section and will be providing weekly articles on all things small business.

small business partnershipsSo you want to be your own boss, set your own rules and be head chief? What if someone else wants the same thing? What if they are your business partner and it’s 50/50 all the way? What if you know everything about them – good, bad, ugly, scandalous etc? Is there room for 2 at the top of the mountain, or are all the textbooks right – there can be only one? What if it’s your brother, who makes the ultimate “chief” decision? This surely has trouble written all over it.

Most people strike trouble in a business partnership when they join forces with people they don’t really know or they THINK they know them. Once you add money and labour or effort into the equation the business relationship can start to show the cracks, things can literally blow up in your face, fortunes can be lost and relationships destroyed.

Who’s The Boss?

Everyone wants to be a chief. They all want to have this perception of head honcho, the CEO factor. Many small businesses start their whole show with the title on their business card. Would be nice if their idea stretched just a bit further than that. But if there are 2 people who start out as equals – same dollar investment, same commitment and same work, who is the chief? And who picks the chief? And what if they are both chief material….Then you have my life. This is exactly the situation that my brother and I found ourselves in many years ago.

Fortunately for us we had no preconceived ideas on the chief thing. We both want the same goals for our businesses, we both are extremely focused and we both definitely want to be chief! You can see the dilemma. Not good for the business or our sibling relationship. Or is it?

Who Chooses The Chief?

The whole driver of my brother and I being self employed was to have freedom. The kind of freedom that allows you to do exactly what you have always dreamed of doing, to take the risks that exhilarate you and fuel the challenges. But we did come face to face with the Chief thing fairly quickly.

Most partnership “rules”- written or unwritten, dictate a hierarchy of leadership and management. They state that roles should be clearly defined, and most importantly there is only room for1 leader. But what if these rules are wrong?

Very wrong, at least for us they were.

My brother and I have existed in a partnership for 27 odd years as chief. Both of us. Yes, let me say that again, both of us as chief. Not co-chief, but the two of us sharing the CEO position. We don’t necessarily divide up our roles, we just do what needs to be done either together or separate. Our definition of chief is for the two of us to have the freedom of being head honcho but the support structure of someone who has our back unconditionally. We have rules but they are only a few, one being the most important: to have the opportunity to make our dreams a reality. If my brother needs to make a decision about the business, then he can. He gets to do what needs to be done as he sees fit. And the same for me. It’s about trust and faith.

Why Do You Want It?

Our way isn’t necessarily an option for anyone else, and it’s not a perfect set up by any means – catch us on one of our special days and you can hear us clear across Sydney CBD. We are after all brother & sisterJ

Being the chief is not the easy option; the responsibility of leadership should never be taken lightly. It’s not about a title on your business card or how much money your projections forecast, it’s completely about living the dream and being the voice of it. The rush is in the doing. I think that’s what my brother and I have discovered, the secret to our partnership. It’s not about who is chief, it’s about the why.

When you understand why you want what you want, when it’s clear what needs to be done to get there, the chief thing is just 5 letters, bit like an ABN is just a serious of numbers. This discovery is the final piece in the true beginning of your business. BTW, it wont happen overnight its not Facebook timeline.


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