S2E1 // Failed Partnership

October 17, 2018

We’re back for season two of Making a Business! So to dive in, we’re sharing what’s been going on with Emily’s product-based business, Almanac Supply Co., since season one—including dissolving a business partnership, redefining roles and responsibilities, and making a couple vision shifts to the business.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
"Entrepreneurship is only the solution for the kinds of people who are really prepared for the hardships—but also the rewards—that come from working in this way."
- Emily Thompson

Discussed in this Episode

  • One of the biggest upsets of a business: losing a partnership
  • The importance of strong communication paired with independence in a business partnership
  • Lessons learned in choosing a business partner
  • Dealing with the upset of losing a business partnership
  • Redefining roles, systems, and processes after a business upset
  • Shifting vision of Almanac Supply Co.

Resources

More from Kathleen

Braid Creative

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.

Transcript

Emily Thompson 0:01
From Being Boss, this is Making a Business.

Kathleen Shannon 0:05
A podcast about starting a business from scratch and overcoming the obstacles face when pursuing your dreams. I'm Kathleen Shannon.

Emily Thompson 0:13
And I'm Emily Thompson.

Kathleen Shannon 0:22
In this miniseries, we're following Emily's journey as she jumps into life as a maker and retailer with her new creative endeavor Almanac Supply Company.

Kathleen Shannon 0:37
Last season in making a business, Emily and I dove into the foundation of those first few months of Emily's journey and starting Almanac Supply Company. This season, beginning right here has us revisiting this company now in its eighth month. In this episode, we're diving into some big changes and shifts that Emily's experienced in just the few short months since launching, including how her pop up strategy has contributed to her business. And well a big one, and one will be leading with her partner leaving.

Emily Thompson 1:09
All right to set this episode up. Here's a little bit of background. I launched Almanac Supply Company in January 2018. With a business partner Holly, we spent months researching, making, preparing, launching and selling. And though I was super pleased with how things were going, we were making sales and moving forward, we were definitely hitting some roadblocks along the way, with things like sourcing materials and transitioning into some new areas of work life balance. Then, one day in April, I got a message from Holly, she didn't feel like it was working out. And she quit. Since this was the biggest shift that happened in Almanac Supply Company since season one I thought it was important to sort of lay this out there. And especially because I've gotten so many questions behind the scenes about what has happened in transition, because you guys kind of notice that something was up. So we're going to leave this season with laying this out there and then we're gonna move on.

Kathleen Shannon 2:13
Alright, Emily, what did you learn about this experience of partnering up this time?

Emily Thompson 2:19
A million little things, but also a couple of really big lessons that have taken the it took a couple of months for them really to like manifest themselves, there's a really like flesh themselves out in my mind as to as to what this was supposed to teach me because I'm very sure that this whole experience happened because I needed to learn something in order to be a best a be a better business owner. And because we do the podcast, I also had to look at it in terms of how it was, I was just bringing this message to everyone else. So it wasn't just how it was that it was going to affect my business in the way, the way it is that I show up in in you know, in Almanac but also in Being Boss, but also how it is that I can share this experience with everyone else in a way that teaches them something. So my god is this something that I've thought about in a million different ways. And I'm excited to share some of the takeaways now that we're, I guess, at the time of recording this four months removed from the actual day that it happened. So here are some things that I learned. First and foremost, whenever you partner with someone communication is key. And I think we can all say obviously, but for real. And I think it has to be closely followed up with defining your roles, and then doing your work within those roles. And I think in some places communication can break down or should be broken down. Let me say it that way when it comes to doing your work. And I mean this by our I mean this in saying that you have to be able to work autonomously. So you have to be able to have your role and then go off and do the work and not need to communicate every little point along the way. Or even, you know, look for validation along every step as well. And I even think of this as a mom to a kid who loves consistent validation, every time she's off doing something, I think that I think it's important to be able to, or to be able to do the work without needing to talk about every single aspect of it. So it's balancing those two things.

Kathleen Shannon 4:42
I think that this is also something that people who go from a day job to working for themselves really struggle with, because you're going from working in this team setting where you're maybe physically in the same location talking through every step or even just a little bit of chitchat or having a micromanager as a boss. Or being micromanaged in a certain way. And sometimes it can be really hard to break free from that rhythm and that need for validation and almost over communication.

Emily Thompson 5:11
Absolutely. And it's it's a delicate balance to what you know, to communicate efficiently and effectively and openly and all of those things and know when to just go do the work. And I'm not saying by any means that either of us were always at fault, or always doing a great job at this. But this is one of the things that that definitely came out of it for me is a recognition of knowing when to talk about something and when to just do the thing. And when those things overlap, and when they are completely separate. I also think that if given the time, I actually I know that if given the time, Holly and I would have been able to work things out and really find our flow. And we would have kept iterating how it was that we were working, I think, you know, I guess at the time that it happened to we were only four months into it. That wasn't I don't think enough time to really figure anything out. Like we were still struggling with some very basic startup things. So we hadn't really had the opportunity to really start working together. But I know we would have found our groove. And for whatever reason, Holly decided that she couldn't or wouldn't be able to hang in there with me. So that really leads me to this idea that you have to or whenever you are partnering with someone, you need to find someone who, with whom you can understand the responsibilities of being business partners and running a business. And you also have to have similar emotional development and an investment in the venture. I think it's safe to say that after 10 years of doing this, the way I've been doing it, I have a very deep understanding of what it means to show up and do this kind of work and the hardships of being an entrepreneur versus someone who had never done any business before on her own. So I was much more ready for every bump in the road. I didn't see them as catastrophes, I just saw them as part of the process. And and I don't think Holly you felt as easily about those sort of hardships, and one of them in particular being some sourcing issues that we had early on in our in our candle containers. And if you go listen to season one, you'll hear us or you'll hear me talk about that a little bit. I think that wore on Holly significantly more than it did on me, I knew it was going to work out at some point when it was time to work out. But I think she might have seen that as more of a hiccup than I did. And I see now that I should have found a probably a partner that was more prepared for what working like this actually feels like even more so than what it means to show up and do the work. But what it feels like to show up every day and do this.

Kathleen Shannon 7:59
Right? Like whenever it's not that Instagram pretty picture of what it's like to be an entrepreneur, but that you know, getting your hands dirty kind of thing or. Okay, so one of the things that you mentioned was having that emotional matchup. But I also wonder about experience and skills. What have you learned whenever it comes to who you partner with? What kind of vetting would you do next time around.

Emily Thompson 8:27
It's funny, I think, especially myself being as long into this as I am and to have the kind of expertise that I have, I would probably treat it as like a new hire as like hiring an employee or I would give a partner an interview and give them some some tasks to see if they can complete them and what kind of questions and how it is they communicate and all of those things, to see if they can just even do some of the basic work and what that working style and being and stuff like that is like I think, I think at this point with the experience that I have. I think some people may see that as being a little bit demeaning, but I'd do it anyway, I would treat it like a new hire.

Kathleen Shannon 9:12
I think that that's really interesting. And I know that from my own experience of bringing on a third partner over at Braid, that there was almost a year of integration. But then how do you on equal footing, really create something together? Whenever you're the one that's kind of falling into that leadership role? Or is that something that you just embrace, like, Hey, this is my vision. This is the thing and I want to bring you on 50/50 but I'm kind of going to be the shot caller.

Emily Thompson 9:41
I still think there's a year of integration. I think there is some amount of time that is required to get you there. And again, I knew that we were in the middle of a slog or even at the beginning of a slog. And I wasn't bothered by it. I kept iterating how well we were doing because, you know, Almanac was growing, it was getting off to a great start. And I'm much more used to the bumps in the roads, or even, you know, the stress of it. So, um, I, I was expecting a long period of iteration and I thought I was adequately communicating and maybe I was adequately communicating. Maybe I wasn't that this was all normal, but for whatever reason, whatever reason Holly wasn't wasn't into into that, you know, year of iterating, or year of integration, I suppose. But I was down.

Kathleen Shannon 10:36
I know, it's kind of like after you have a kid everyone says, Don't make any decisions about your relationship with your partner. I think even you told me this, Emily, like just give it three years.

Emily Thompson 10:46
There years. Right?

Kathleen Shannon 10:48
Three years.

Emily Thompson 10:48
Exactly. Exactly. And and I think too, that's one of the things because I've, because I've been your partner, in Being Boss for so long. And is what one of the great things that I think has come out of this is that you and I are closer now because of it. Because I was able to feel all of those things and then bring them to you. And as have these conversations, based on my experience, you and I were able to really voice some things around, you know how it was, we were going to continue showing up for each other and for Being Boss. And so that was one of the really great things. I think that came from it. But absolutely you don't you don't make decisions prematurely you show up for the other person, you show up for the business, and you show up for everyone that it affects. I think all too often people think that their little business only affects them when their families involved. For me, the Being Boss business and team was involved in some extent to, to Holly leaving Almanac and then I I'm not sure if if those things were super considered, maybe they were, maybe they weren't. But these things are very far reaching. And again, it was something that I was, I was completely ready for. But I think maybe sounds like I had chosen someone who wasn't as ready as I was.

Kathleen Shannon 12:10
I feel like maybe you're taking it personal. And it is personal, because you guys were friends. But also, I feel like maybe you're putting a little too much pressure on yourself that you chose this person, that it was your mistake. And I just want to give you a little bit more credit, because sometimes shit just happens. And it's not anybody's fault. You know, and I just want to give you a little bit of grace there.

Emily Thompson 12:37
I appreciate that Kathleen, and I have I took it really, really hard. And David took it really, really hard because these were friends of ours. And we thought that they had a deeper understanding of you know, our intentions and where we were with it. And you know, because Holly leaving was so sudden, and without conversation, it really sort of hit us like a ton of bricks. We didn't expect it, we weren't really prepared for it by any means. And in fact, we were even, you know, sort of expecting the complete opposite outcome. We thought things were going really, really well. So completely blindsided. And so that really made the cliff, a much harder fall, I think. And it took a little time to really sort of gain the perspectives of it. But again, I think coming back to that idea that this experience was here to teach me something definitely felt, definitely helped me, I guess dig myself out of the hole. And not that I went too deep in a hole guys, even though like I did go into a hole, for sure, it definitely helped me come out on the other side of it, understanding that we're definitely better off for it, I'm super excited to have Almanac bein my hands, and to be able to move so much more quickly. And all of these things. And again, I also cannot even voice the gratitude that I have for how better it's made our relationship and an understanding of our partnership. Because it took me through a place in business and in friendship and partnership, where I see where the value lies. And I see that what you and I are able or the relationship that you and I have is so much more powerful, and I think can go so much further because I understand what the alternatives are. So I completely appreciate that. But know that I am doing much better now and I definitely see the value. I've definitely gained some value from the experience and I do have to just say too that, even when it's all said and done I completely respect Holly's decision. I do believe that this life is not for everyone because I know this shit is hard. And I know and I would have much rather her done it early and then the way that she did then to wait till we're in the middle of a busy season and shits actually getting real and then have someone leave. And just leave me standing there like juggling all the balls at once. It was early. It was at a time when you know, we could easily enough figure things out and make some transitions. And, I mean, this isn't for everyone. And I think that's probably been my absolute biggest lesson that I've learned from this is that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. For a very long time, I mean, pretty much the past decade that I've been doing this, I've pretty much believed that if anyone had the gumption, or if anyone just had the want, not even the gumption, they could do this, they could go out, they can start their own business, and they could hustle it out. And it's been a very slow learning process. And one that was very punctuated with Holly quitting our partnership, where I realize that not everyone has the gumption and not everyone you know, has the drive or the passion, or the organizational skills, or all of these things that are required to to be an entrepreneur to start and grow a business. And it's one of those things, I've always seen entrepreneurship as a solution to everyone's job hunting problems. But what I see now is that entrepreneurship is only a solution for the kinds of people who are really prepared for the hardships, but also the rewards that come from working in this way.

Emily Thompson 16:38
And there you have it, the biggest shift in business that I've honestly ever been hit with. And I want to take a few moments to reiterate a couple of really important things that you must remember, as you're starting a business, whether it's on your own or with a partner. First and foremost, trust the process. Whether it's a win or a seeming failure, a time of fast paced action, or a time when you're just sitting there waiting for a shoe to drop, it's all part of the process, and everything holds a lesson, I think the winners find and learn the lesson and move on stronger because of them. Second, everything new takes time in a society that has made instant gratification a standard, it's important to remember that all good things take time, practice patience, work hard,and the rewards will come.

Emily Thompson 17:33
Next up, communicate, communicate, communicate. And this is easily envisioned in a partnership, having regular meetings, discussing big decisions, but I think it also must be practiced by the solopreneur to set goals, journal your feelings, know yourself and pull someone in to be a sounding board when needed. And finally get ready for shit you can't even see coming yet. Kathleen and I often say that in business, you don't even know what you don't know, showing up. And doing this kind of work puts you in an ecosystem of action where you have little control over most aspects of what actually makes up your business, from suppliers to technology to other people, the entrepreneur has to be in a constant state of readiness to deal with whatever this line of work could ever throw at you. And if you can't deal with that, then entrepreneurship may not be the path for you. And now that that's all out of the way, I'm excited to dive in on all the other things that have been going on at Almanac Supply Company, because we're on the move.

Kathleen Shannon 18:46
I think that the observation that I want to make from the outside looking in, and not just on your experience, but a lot of people's experiences, whenever it comes to starting something is that we both know that a collaboration can be so much stronger than doing it by yourself. And I think that's what you were looking for. But sometimes there's a little bit of a crutch there too. And sometimes we're looking to someone else to have the answers that we don't have because entrepreneurship is uncertain. And so I think that that can be a pitfall whenever it comes to partnering as well. And I don't necessarily think that is a pitfall that you fall into. Because, well, let's be honest, Emily, you're usually the one with all the answers whenever it comes to that kind of guidance or this person that you'd want to partner with. But I do think that there is a little bit of this, okay, I don't have to do it alone. But at the end of the day, whenever it comes to any project in any collaboration, it's so much more lands on your own shoulders than you could ever imagine. And I think that's whenever partnerships are the best is whenever everyone has that autonomy and is kind of carrying that weight of the business as if they were doing it alone, but then you can just have a little more leverage and a little more strength doing it with someone else, only if they're carrying that same amount of weight.

Emily Thompson 20:10
That is genius. I feel that. I feel that a lot, I think, I think that's a super important point to make. Because partnering and collaborating is not sharing the responsibility so much as you still being completely responsible for your shit, you just get to do it with someone else. That's a very important differentiation to make.

Kathleen Shannon 20:33
But what's cool about it is that I think that you were carrying that weight for Almanac. I from the beginning felt like this was your baby. And so I'm excited to hear how you've grown and progressed, how did this shift in your business, redefine your own roles, and even some of the systems and processes? And what did it mean for bringing someone else in?

Emily Thompson 20:58
Right? So it was huge, it was huge. And I also just have to point out here, that this went down the week of the Being Boss book launch. So if we can't like just paint a picture here of what was happening in my life, this is also the week and most people probably won't really know this. But here you go. This is also the week that I officially sort of fired all of my clients at Indie Shopography. So and I don't say fire, like in a bad way. There were some changes that happened with the website platform that we had built all of our websites on. And just the timeline ended up falling so that we were off boarding all of our clients during this week as well. So Indie is basically shutting down, the Being Boss book is happening, Kathleen and I were in between a book tour date in New York City, and then San Francisco, I was home for about three days in between. When this happened, Holly, let me know that she didn't want to continue with Almanac. And it was it was amicable, it was an amicable split. But then I was leaving for San Francisco and book tour, stop number two the next day. And then coming back and dealing with bookstore or book tour number three, and just ongoing marketing and all these things. It was a super professionally busy time in my life, for me to have to take every system that we had built at Almanac and basically restructure it. So Holly had been particularly had been responsible for filling orders, for example, and everything was living at her house. The day that I flew to San Francisco for a book tour, David had to go get all of this stuff alone and you know, bring it back to our house and put it all in my studio. So we ended up working here for about two months, with everything in boxes in my studio where I do all of my work, we were filling orders, just sort of like on the dining room table like very legitimately, again, running a business sort of out of our living and working spaces, which was really crazy. So restructuring how it was that we were sending out orders, making sure we could find all the things because most of the things were still in boxes. It was it was a very intense time. And it was during this time to where David and I had to have a very serious conversation as to what this would look like. You know, if I had, if I had planned on doing Almanac myself, I probably wouldn't have started it at the time that I did, I would have waited until after book launch at very at the very least. So it ended up making sense to us that David actually come on as my partner. So David is 50%. And he has taken over everything and he took it all over very quickly. And very easily and very happily, he was very excited to get his hand. He loves packing a box guys, there is nothing that gives David more pleasure than packing a box taping it up, shaking it and not hearing a noise.

Kathleen Shannon 23:59
And David is your partner in life. You all have a kiddo together. So it's kind of wild. But it also makes a lot of sense to bring him in.

Emily Thompson 24:11
It does. And David has experience in you know, packaging and packaging and delivery things. One of his college jobs is in sort of a mail store where it was literally his job to find the right boxes and pack them appropriately and like all of and he knows the ins and outs of UPS and FedEx and all of these things on a scale that I never have. So he's been able to bring some expertise in which has been really great. And he's also and even going back to some of the things we talked about in season one. It's one of the purposes of me wanting to start this business is that I want a family business. I want something that can incorporate David and Lily one day I think I painted the picture of Lily like counting coins or sweeping up the shop or those sorts of things like I want this to be that kind of situation. So this really allows it to be I can bring it really into, into my family, we can all work together to make it happen. It's been really great to go on rock search trips with David and to, you know, have him help me source things. And one of the great things is that we communicate very efficiently and effectively, we're always in the same space, we're able to work so much faster, because we're not having to, you know, get the okay from a third party or any of those things, we can just really do the work so much more quickly and efficiently and all of these things, and we're having a ton of fun doing it. So roles haven't super changed. For me, I'm still like a very top level visionary doing the social media and marketing. I'm also taking care of all the design and those sorts of things. It's just now the shipping and fulfillment. And some of the other pieces of the puzzle are with David who is having a blast doing it, we've had lots of conversations together consistently checking in, to make sure that this is something that David wants to do, because I don't want David just be the fallback guy who gets you know, the piece of the puzzle that someone else didn't want. And it keeps coming back that David is very excited about this, he does not quite have the entrepreneurial drive that I do. And he recognizes that. But he does like building the thing. And I think more importantly, he likes running the thing that's being built, which is a different aspect of it. So he's having a blast, and I'm having a blast working with him. He's worked with me at Indie Shopography, and was officially a partner of Indie as well over the past couple of years. He works with us at Being Boss, like he's just really great with numbers. And again, he really just likes a solidly packed box.

Kathleen Shannon 26:48
I love it. So it's been months now since your partner left, and I'm sure things that have really shifted just in your business vision on that front. So I'm curious if your focus or if your strategies have changed at all?

Emily Thompson 27:03
Yeah, so it's funny, whenever we first started, you know, our goal was to do online sells and pop up shops. I think that's probably one of the biggest places where our vision has shift, because we've done several pop up shops, probably five or six over the past couple of months. And we're finding that those are not the most efficient use of our time and resources. It's also made us think a lot about where it is that our people are shopping. Definitely it has had its advantages, for sure. And it's definitely stretched our perspective in terms of what commerce in Chattanooga is like. But that's not something that we're focusing on moving forward. Instead, we're focusing on building some relationships, either with local shops or you know, just local people. And also continue to really focus on online while we figure out what offline is going to be about. We also went from focusing on, you know, having really curating these, these spreads of products every season to really focusing on our core offering, at least for this first year. So that's been a really big transition, and one that's had benefits already. And then I've also just gotten back into this old flow that I'd kind of forgotten about from, you know, product business 10 years ago, where it doesn't matter what month you're in, or what you're doing, or any of those things in product business as long as you're thinking about Christmas, because those Christmas holidays are what everything is about when it comes to product business. So again, thinking less about season to season and thinking more about the shopping season and how we can really just spend the whole year preparing and nurturing people for that big shopping holiday.

Kathleen Shannon 28:51
On the next episode of Making a Business.

Emily Thompson 28:56
I think the first one goes back to a tried and true Emily-ism. And that being consistency breeds legitimacy. It's one that you know, I know to be true, it's something I've been saying for a very, very long time. But to be back into practicing it and a new brand, it just reiterates how very important this is. And whether this is you know, your turnaround time for answering emails, or if it's, you know how it is that you're delivering packages, or if it is you know what your Instagram feed looks like or how often you're sending your email marketing newsletter or whatever it may be. Consistency breeds legitimacy, and I think that's even more important for a new brand. I think once you get old, if you have clout and all of these things, you can skip a couple email newsletters and you can have something weird show up on your Instagram feed or whatever, no one's really gonna bat an eye. But as a new brand, creating this legitimacy through consistent consistency is super important. And so for me that's been one of the things that I just keep going back to. And it's kind of hurting me a little bit because I like the sort of ebb and flow or I've been in my other brands long enough that I can you know, break my own roles, but I'm not in the rule breaking phase yet. Like I'm still very much so in this like creating the rules, and then delivering on that thing over and over again, while I'm building the legitimacy that I'm looking to build.

Emily Thompson 30:29
Mindset, boundaries, habits, and routines. These are what turn a creative into a boss. These foundations and more makeup, our new book Being Boss, Take control of your work, and live life on your own terms. A guide slash workbook slash sleep with it under your pillow book filled with what we've learned over the years as working, thriving creative entrepreneurs. Plus what we've picked up from the hundreds of conversations with industry leaders and experts on the Being Boss podcast.

Kathleen Shannon 31:02
And it's all so that you can cultivate confidence in your work, make good money doing what you're best at and live a life you love. To learn more about our book and order one for yourself, go to beingboss.club/book.

Emily Thompson 31:16
And to check out Almanac Supply Company head on over to AlmanacSupplyCo.com get 15% off of your first order with discount code Being Boss at checkout.

Kathleen Shannon 31:27
Do the work.

Emily Thompson 31:28
Be boss.