My Rocky Relationship
The year was 1968, and my younger brother, Rob, approached me with an idea. “Wendy,” he said, “let’s throw rocks at cars as they drive by the house!” What a great idea, I thought. Absolutely flawless. Seriously, what could go wrong? And since the 3 p.m. episode of “The Flintstones” had just ended—and Al Gore hadn’t gotten around to inventing the Internet yet—we weren’t exactly busy.
As it turned out, Rob’s plan did have one tiny flaw. Apparently, drivers don’t appreciate having large rocks thrown at their cars. We discovered this when one of Rob’s rocks made contact with a white Chevy Impala. Our hearts dropped as the driver stopped his car in the middle of the street. We were in trouble. Because this occurred during those days when parents actually knew how to parent, we were grounded for a month.
Not surprisingly, it was several decades before Rob got up the nerve to ask me to partner with him on another scheme. “Wendy,” he said in 2009, “let’s launch a hyper-local daily deal site just for our Conejo Valley community.” At the time, Groupon had just launched in Los Angeles, California, USA, but because we both lived in the suburbs, most of the Groupon deals were located in the city. This new site would pick up the slack.
At first blush, the idea seemed plausible. But I was weary. Was this another “throw rocks at cars” idea that seemed fantastic at the time, but would ultimately prove disastrous? Two potential problems occurred to me: Neither of us knew a thing about running a website, and the business would be left with zero capital after the website was completed.
But since I tend to be more afraid of regret than failure, I said yes. I’m happy to report that Rob’s idea to launch what would be called ConejoDeals.com was a lot better than the rock-throwing idea. In three years, we’ve sold more than 100,000 deals and donated around US$125,000 to dozens of local schools and charities. We’ve met some fantastic people, and even learned a thing or two about managing employees and surviving competition. But the icing on the 78-percent-off cupcake was winning the 2012 Conejo Valley Business of the Year award.
None of this would have happened had Rob not approached me about partnering in the first place. He picked me because I had experience launching other businesses, and since those endeavours didn’t require any rock-throwing acumen, they were moderately successful. Still, I had never had a business partner before, and I wasn’t sure I wanted one. After all, when you run a business by yourself, there is never a need to compromise or capitulate. The buck both starts and stops with you. Looking back at everything now, though, I wonder how I ever ran a business without a partner.
Building a business with my brother opened my eyes to the many advantages of partnerships. I have learned that a good partner rallies behind your great ideas and puts the kibosh on your bad ones. A true partner commiserates when your biggest competitor scores the customer you were after, and handles the crisis that occurs when you’re getting a Vitamin D kick on a beach in Hawaii. But the most important thing a good partner does is make up for your flaws. The perfect partner is the person who possesses the skill set that you don’t. When you find someone like that, business success is not a matter of if, but when.
All in all, starting a business with my brother was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. A lot better than that rock-throwing business! Oh, and one more thing: If you happen to know the guy who was driving that Chevy Impala in 1968, please tell him that Conejo Deals is running a deal for 54-percent-off dent removal next week. And since he gave my brother and I our start as business partners, let him know that the deal is on the house.
Wendy Jaffe is the CEO of ConejoDeals.com and SimiDeals.com. Fun fact: Wendy, a “retired” attorney, is the author of The Divorce Lawyers’ Guide to Staying Married, and a columnist for Tribe Magazine. She lives in the ‘burbs with her husband, two teenagers and a very loud miniature donkey.