Partnership – Is it for you? And Chinese Sausage Pie…

Even though this blog’s primary focus is making great pies, part of the blog is also focused on the challenges of starting your own business in the Chicagoland market.  So today, I’d like talk a bit on the idea of business partnerships.

The idea of pursuing your own dream is not only exciting, but can also be a scary thing.  Not only is there the monetary aspect of investment, but also the idea you’ll be fully responsible for the success or failure of your dream in many ways.  While your gung-ho entrepreneur may never admit to the fear aspect, I firmly believe there’s always some nagging gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach that gives you pause/doubt. (I personally imagine it to be kind of like that implanted Alien egg that pops out of the guy’s stomach in Space Balls and starts singing “Helly My Baby”).

One of the ways we help ease our fears in starting the venture is to seek partners who will share not only in the risk, but also the work associated with making the venture successful. But as everyone in the world will tell you, mixing business and friendship (or family for that matter) can result in the destruction of those relationships.  So how does one go about pursuing the business without losing those relationships?  I’ve always firmly believed that it’s the same as any relationship you have: clear expectations.

Whenever you begin a partnership, it’s rare that your partners will commit to the same amount of work as you will whether it’s logistical reasons, interest in the process, or personal drive.  At extreme levels, they may work far faster and harder than you and spend 80+ hours a week on the business or they may do the bare minimum to get by with 1 hour a week.  Ultimately, there is no such thing as a perfectly equal partnership, and if you attempt to provide each individual within your new business equal stake, someone will likely start to develop feelings of discord and resentment.  This is why it’s important to establish those expectation as soon as possible from all partners, along with an identified list of roles, responsibilities, and duties that each partner will be responsible for so that you can hold each other accountable (that includes yourself!)

When Za Pi first started, we believed erroneously that it could be an even split of 33.33% ownership across Gambit, Aku, and myself, which definitely caused some feelings of discontent on my part as we progressed in the project.  It’s a feeling that I’m not comfortable with, as I never like internalizing feelings of unhappiness/disappointment with friends.  How does one separate business and friendship?  You really can’t… as much as you’d like, your interactions aren’t fully separable, and I would argue that they shouldn’t be.  You’ve selected some of your friends to join you because in your mind, you firmly believe that there will be a joy in working together on something to move towards success.  Something that will benefit the friendship and each of you individually.

Luckily, in our most recent conversation, we’ve clarified the work in terms of delegating responsibilities in our pre-kickstarter process as well as when we go live at the farmers markets, which has also helped define how our ownership shares should be distributed amongst the team.  While each of us has committed the same amount of money for investment, anyone that’s started a business can tell that the work required to succeed in business isn’t just about the money (unless you have one individual who is looking to serve as the primary investor and fund the majority of all needs).  The challenge is finding the right balance of ownership for those who are investing more and/or doing more work so that everyone is happy with their roles and ownership.  One would think that this is trivial at the start of any business, but it’s an important detail to be worked out earlier rather than later.  After all, what if the business succeed beyond your wildest dreams and there’s big money at stake?  I’m guessing the conversation gets much more heated when significant money is at stake (think Facebook fallout).  Similarly, if the project crashes and burns, it’s important to know who bears the risk.  Ultimately, I’m just glad that we’ve been able to negotiate amongst ourselves and come to a comfortable consensus  along with clear lines of responsibility.  Don’t forget, if you’re creating a multi-partner LLC, your bank will want a similar description that defines roles and responsibilities for each of your partners.

My advice to you: it’s never too early to start identifying roles/responsibilities in your business venture, and it’s important to revisit them whenever the situation changes.  The honesty between partnerships is paramount in keeping your relationships clear of resentment, and making the partnership work.

And now, a new pie in testing:  Chinese sausage pie!  For those of you who never have had Chinese sausage before, it’s a tasty/fatty cured meat, very similar to salami in concept, but much smaller and sweeter in taste.  I’m not entirely sure what the curing process entails (something to look up later), but there is a definite sweetness that brings back great childhood memories for me.


You’ll see that it has a familiar curl from the oven that pepperoni gives, and the shimmer of delicious flavorful fat that has been rendered out at a high temperature bake which melds nicely with the tomato sauce.  Unfortunately, we need some additional ingredients to help round out the flavor more, as while the sausage is good, the sweetness is a bit much.

Any one with ideas on what may help balance out this favorite ingredient of mine?


4 thoughts on “Partnership – Is it for you? And Chinese Sausage Pie…

  1. Clear expectations are a MUST in any type if relationship. I just watched my first episode of Restaurant Impossible with Robert Irvine, who was at the Pizza Expo and wondered what the fuss was all about since he had a full house and was being treated like a rock star. Anyways, he would be in total agreement with you. Watched 4 episodes in a row… And the restaurants were failing partly due to lack of communication…resulting in unclear expectations, besides a crappy menu.

    Love Chinese sausages too, on fried rice! I recently ordered Brussels sprouts which was sautéed with Chinese sausages, rather than the usual pancetta. It was a pleasant surprise and it was delicious!

  2. @Oakleaffarm – Robert Irvine’s show is definitely very telling. A large part is the lack of proper communication, and my goal is that even though I have majority share, I want to be on the same page with my partners in terms of expectations. Watching that show really does have some lessons to be learned.

    @Spencer and Jeff – Thanks for the ideas! I’m going to be trying a few variations of Chinese sausage this coming week, as well as playing with a new pizza as well. Stay tuned!

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