If you are planning to acquire a broadcast station, is your prospective partner a good choice?
Is your prospective partner suited to be partners with anyone?
BMC Associates Ph.D. Edward P. Kopf and Garvey Schubert Barer attorney Erwin Krasnow highlight the reasons why in this second in a multi-installment report.
Not everyone is built to be a good business partner.
The best partners have the ability to be trusting, flexible, patient, and empathetic with one another. Not every effective businessperson possesses these basic partnering characteristics.
An irony of business partnerships is the potential contradiction between the set of characteristics that are associated with successful entrepreneurship, on the one hand, and partnership on the other. For nearly 50 years, companies, counselors and individuals have been using typologies of personality based on the ideas of Carl Jung to explore the “fit” between individuals and the social and professional roles they might play.
The most prominent of these typologies was developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. The Myers-Briggs types are summarized as widely known (but often misunderstood) groups of four letters. Of course, all successful entrepreneurs don’t have the same personality or Myers-Briggs type. But the “ENTJ” type (extroverted, intuitive, thinking and judging, in Myers-Briggs terminology) is often identified with business creators and leaders.
The ENTJ is—in short—extroverted, imaginative, cogent and decisive. This certainly fits our intuitive sense of many successful entrepreneurs. If you are thinking of taking on the challenge of broadcast station ownership, there is a good chance that you share much of the ENTJ’s personality. Those who might want to join you in taking on that risk and opportunity may have similar personalities.
A lot can go right when two entrepreneurs bring their energy, creativity and ambition together. But there are risks as well. Psychologist Robert G. Heyward has described the other side of the coin of these positive traits: The limitations that ENTJ’s may bring to a working relationship.
Heyward writes that they may:
- Be unable to understand other people’s needs where these differ from their own.
- Unwisely assume their ideas are the only right ones and are therefore being fully implemented by others.
- Become childishly petulant or angered when confronted by situations which require feeling judgments.
- Become so engrossed in a plan or ambition that personal needs and the needs of others are forgotten.
- Take every decision not made in agreement with their rational beliefs as a personal rejection.
- Become obsessed with small obstructions and difficulties to the point where the overall plan is forgotten.
- Assume others are plotting against them.
Many of these shortcomings run directly counter to qualities that we have learned are qualities that outstanding partners tend to have, including:
- Being a team player
- Having respect for others’ ideas and perspectives
- Having patience to talk through issues that arise
- Flexibility and willingness at times to defer to others
- Readiness to share credit for successes and blame for failures
- Ability to trust others
- Collaboration, sharing and openness
If either you or your prospective partner were to prove unable to maintain a predominance of these positive partner qualities over the potential pitfalls of an entrepreneurial personality, you are more likely to have a rocky ride over time.
Given the history of the entrepreneurial success of partnerships, we know that this danger can often be managed. Highly entrepreneurial personalities can discipline themselves to manifest the basic qualities needed for partnership with attention, commitment and, frequently, some help from outside advisors or consultants. But sometimes the risks of failure in basic partnering qualities are just so great that moving forward with a partnership is not advisable.
The best advice we can give is to be honest with yourself about your own proclivities and what you can perceive of your prospective partner’s. If you are clearly going to be unduly challenged by the basic qualities and personality requirements for effective partnering, face up to that. Partnership may not be worth the effort and risk for you. You might be better off flying solo. If you are concerned about your prospective partner’s general suitability to partner, talk about this risk with him or her in the course of your pre-partnership due diligence. When the demands of effective partnering seem too high or the effort to mitigate basic partnering risk too daunting for your prospective partner, it may be best to look for a different co-pilot.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles on partnership written by BMC Associates Ph.D. Edward P. Kopf and Garvey Schubert Barer attorney Erwin Krasnow.
Edward J. Kopf, a principal and founding member of BMC Associates, is a leader in the field of business mediation. He has over 20 years of senior management experience in rapidly growing public and closely held companies.
Erwin G. Krasnow, the co-chair of the Communications Group of Garvey Schubert Barer, is a former General Counsel of the National Association of Broadcasters, Washington counsel to the Media Financial Management Association, and a coauthor of Profitably Buying and Selling Broadcast Stations and 100 Ways to Cut Legal Fees and Manage Your Lawyer. He has been described by Legal Times as “the guru of Communications Law.” Erwin can be reached at [email protected] and at 202-298-2161.