Tuition Business Lesson #3: Someone’s Gotta Be The Chief

Our team was made up of 5 partners of equal shares. When we formed the partnership, the agreement was to go fully democratic. We shall vote to decide all matters. It would quickly prove to be a biased and sluggish way for decision making.

There was no real empowerment, because everything still had to be approved by the team, and the team looked ultimately to Steve, the unofficial head honcho, for approval. It was pretty obvious during meetings when impromptu decisions had to be made, everyone would somehow wait for Steve to voice his opinion.

Refusing To Lead

Paradoxically, Steve refused to acknowledge his leadership position. Many a times when I asked him to decide on things, he would throw it back to the team to decide. So if I proposed something to Steve, he would ask me to propose to the team through the chat group, and everyone would chip in their ideas.

I’m sure you know how hard it is, to propose an idea in a chat group, and then having to handle everyone’s opinion, whether they are involved in the operation. It was extremely inefficient and frustrating.

The situation improved when I proposed to have a HOD for each function like marketing, curriculum planning, admin, finance, etc. I was appointed the co-HOD for marketing, yet I still worked under the mentoring of Steve. I quickly learnt to seek his advice in almost everything. It didn’t feel good to me.

How Things Get Proposed

When there was a new initiative in our business, it usually happened this way:
-The head honcho Steve would initiate something
-He would prepare a detailed proposal, complete with beautiful slides and facts and figures
-He would go around convincing each partner
-He would roll it out during the meeting and get the votes from everyone

This method of garnering support before proposing an idea indeed ensured that the idea would get approved. It was efficient. What I felt was missing was a platform for open discussion among all partners. It was very hard to know what others thought about the idea, as when it came to meetings, any important decisions were already half-made.

Learning Point

I learnt the hard way that too many cooks indeed spoil the soup. In a team, as much as we wanted to play fair and be respectful, there was a real need to have a person to call the shot at the end of the day, because impasse and deadlocks would happen.

In my next joint venture with another person, I insisted that we cannot have a 50-50 share arrangement. We settled upon a 49-51 arrangement instead. We also created clear roles for each individuals, and agreed to defer to the person-in-charge when it came to decision making.

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