Partnerships in business can be tricky. On the business side, there’s the division of responsibilities, decision-making process and financial issues to consider. On the personal side there is personality compatibility, work ethic and one’s moral compass to consider.
If there are any significant misalignments or conflicts in any of these areas, the firm can suffer. A severe conflict could be fatal for the firm.
Let me introduce Mike Flowers and Tim Rieger, certified public accountants extraordinaire. In 1984, Flowers founded his own CPA firm. Rieger joined Flowers in 1992. They became partners in the firm later in that decade, and together they have built Flowers Rieger & Associates into one of the most successful accounting & consulting firms in Tucson.
Flowers and Rieger illustrate two people who have made a business partnership successful for the last 26 years. What’s most interesting is that Flowers and Rieger are opposite in many ways.
Their personalities are different. Flowers is outgoing and gregarious. Rieger is more reserved, more quiet.
Flowers came from the cold canyons of Hell’s Kitchen on the west side of Manhattan. Rieger came from the cold plains of South Dakota.
Nonetheless, each found themselves (by choice) in Tucson, Flowers by 1978, and Rieger by 1979.
They leveraged their differences into strong assets for the firm. I mentioned earlier how division of responsibilities could be a challenge for a partnership. For Flowers and Rieger, that division naturally aligns with each of their personalities.
Flowers is Mr. Outside and Rieger is Mr. Inside. In other words, Flowers is more the rainmaker, and Rieger is more the technician, though each is active in both areas. This is critical, and it validates the power of opposites in business. If two partners each gravitate towards sales, then production suffers. If two partners each gravitate towards production, then sales suffer.
At Flowers Rieger this natural division of responsibilities gives substance to one of the founding principles of the firm — take care of the client. Flowers, Rieger and all of the associates at the firm look at each client situation as unique. No two businesses are identical. No client situations or challenges are the same. Flowers Rieger personnel ask themselves one simple question when working with a client: “What would I do if this were my business?”
And yeah, I know a lot firms say the client comes first, but the opposing characteristics of the partners actually contributes to that philosophy being practiced each and every day. Each partner focuses on what they do best. Consider the perspective of a small business owner:
- The owner of a privately held business is reluctant to share their financials with outsiders. If they do share, they expect a return on that extension of trust.
- The owner of a privately held business doesn’t need an adviser to tell them their last quarter was lousy. They know that. They need an adviser to help them make the next quarter better.
Flowers is most natural connecting and exploring, asking the questions 40-plus years of experience enables, challenging assumptions and helping the client see things in terms of clear financial realities.
Rieger is most natural analyzing and developing value. He knows the numbers, and that’s one thing. More importantly, Rieger knows how to use the numbers to figure out the future. That’s something entirely different.
For added flexibility, each partner is equally comfortable in the other’s arena.
Flowers is a strong accountant. He can work the numbers with proficiency equal to Rieger. Rieger is a strong client-relationship person. He develops and works with his own base of clients.
Opposites coming together to make the whole greater than either individual part. Flexibility enabling the firm to deliver on time, as promised, and even beyond client expectations. Each partner does what they do best, they back up each other, and the clients benefit.
And very importantly, Tucson benefits. Flowers Rieger has helped thousands of small and mid-sized companies create their own successful futures, building the Tucson community in the process.
Ken Cook is the co-founder of How to Who, a program on how to build strong relationships and how to build business through those relationships. Learn more at howtowho.com.
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