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Path to Partnership; The Apartment Developer's Dilemma

I have been fortunate to have the occasion to work with a group of promising young folks and get to hear their hopes and expectations. As I listen, I can’t help but think back to my own career path and chuckle at how little changes generationally. Their wants are no different than mine were at their age. Their frustrations that it all happens too slowly are the same. Their fundamental lack of understanding is heartwarming, as are their expectations.

 Since early in our careers, those of us who are smart, hard-working and motivated have generally focused on the idea of ownership. We see the entrepreneurs who employ us and want to be similar. They embody a version of our concept of success. When we are young, being a partner means having a seat at the grown-ups table. It’s our opportunity to affect change or enable our visions. It’s the gateway to profit and security. There may even be a little pride in the title of ‘owner’ which we covet- if we’re confident enough to admit it.

But because we are smart, hard-working and motivated; we also want things well before we’re ready for them, before we even understand what it is that we think we want. Of course we don’t recognize that we’re not ready; after all we have been told that we are bright and unique snowflakes since we were three years old. So I thought that I might offer some ‘tough love’ advice and words of wisdom to the throngs of audacious talented youth, who will one day, be ready to lead.

 KEY PREMISE: You don’t intelligently partner with someone just because they are your friend or family member; or because they are smart or hard working. You partner because they are indispensible. They have a necessary skill-set that if lacking, would cause catastrophic chaos within the organization.

 CONCLUSION: If you are not a partner, it is because you are still dispensable. Your job is to make yourself the exact opposite.

 So how do you prepare yourself for your rendezvous with ownership? Here are a few key elements:

  1. Think like an owner. Understand every decision through the lens of risk and reward.
  2. Act like an owner. Ask yourself, ‘if these were my dollars at risk, what would I care about?’ And then make decisions accordingly.
  3. See like an owner. View and understand the big picture and find ways to influence it.
  4. Be realistic. Not every skill-set leads to ownership. If what you do is always hirable, then you need to decide to be happy without the title of partner- or learn to do something else.
  5. Make the partners rich. If you don’t directly expand profitability, your likelihood of being considered ‘indispensable’ is exponentially lower. 

 The next issue is investment. Understand that the fundamental difference between an owner and an employee comes down to risk (and almost always, capital at risk). If you want to be an owner, be prepared to put cash on the line. And for the younger folks, don’t mistake ‘opportunity cost’ for investment.

 Of course doing all of these things won’t ensure you anything. There are so many additional factors such as; timing, profitability, organizational and business lifecycles, politics, personality, cultural fit, etc. But if you can hone those skills above, you will position yourself to actually deserve the opportunity to join the rank of partner in whatever organization has ‘the right fit.’

 And by the way, wanting to be an owner before you are ready is a good thing. So is the frustration at being told that you ‘aren’t there’ yet. Good luck.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Wait, are you saying I'm not a bright and unique snowflake?

But really, fantastic blog, and it's funny because I was working on a very similar blog about acting like an owner.

  Brent Williams
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Brent, I find you to be an exceptional snowflake!

So please piggyback on my topic. What did I miss? Where am I wrong? What insights do you have on your transition from a workerbee perspective to an owner's perspective?

  Ross Blaising
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I like the exceptional snowflake, I think I will start telling my 6 year old this everytime she ask me if she is smart. This was a really good read and I could relate to this! Lately I have been feeling so frustrated with how slow my path is taking me to my ultimate goal of becoming a director of training and a few speaking engagements. Brent recomended me to read this blog and I'm so glad he did. I will print out you guideline and put it every where. Is it odd that I feel over qualified for my position at work and am feeling sufficated by the lack of excitement? I'm wondering if because I have achieve an goal at bringing a property delinquency down below 1K that the thrill of the challenge has worn off. Needless to say thank you for writing this! Jolene

  Jolene Sopalski

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