Simple Math – when 1 + 2 = ?

“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do. Two can be as bad one. It’s the loneliest number since the number one.”
                                                                                   Three Dog Night

At some point we find ourselves with more work than hours in the day. It feels as if there is too much to do and we’re no longer able to push through the daily overwhelm as we have done every day for the last five months or maybe even the last five years. The demands of the business go beyond our current capacity to manage and be successful. Having someone to share our load – both figuratively and literally, to bounce ideas, to travel the journey together – seems all appealing. 

But business partnerships are fraught with difficulty and very few work out well. And here’s why. We are feeling afraid and lonely and we think if there is someone with us it won’t be quite as difficult.

We want a partner because:

  • We think it will be easier
  • We imagine they will be sitting with us in the office late into the night when our doubts come out to play
  • We like the idea of someone else having skin in the game
  • We want to hear “I’ve got your back”

What you may get instead is:

  • Resentment when your partner makes a hire or a purchase you don’t agree with
  • Conflict when you want to reinvest in the business and your partner wants to take money out
  • Pain when your visions no longer match 
  • Loss of your business when the disagreements cannot be resolved

And so, after much thought, you decide to look outside to add someone to your team. It could be hiring your first actual employee, or finding a virtual partner or contractor to support your needs, or adding a #2 or “second in command” to free you up and help manage your growing business.  

Because this is what I do – work with business owners to map out and implement their leadership plans with their key employees – I’m often asked what the magic formula in making this transition a success – both for the business owner and the company.  

I usually say it’s just a case of “simple math.”

There are three “formulas”  I see when a CEO/Business Owner (#1) and a key employee/second in command (#2) work together:

  1.  1-2 = -1
    Adding a second or key person to your team actually takes away from you – your time, your energy and peace of mind. You feel as if you have more to do now than you did when you were flying solo and you find yourself thinking it would have been much better to not have this person at all.
  2. 1+2 = 3
    In this case, the results yield exactly what is expected. You are working together okay but it still feels harder than it should. Your thought is if you were going to take the time to add another person to your team, the investment – both in time and energy – should yield more than just average.

  3. (1+2)2 = 9
    Perhaps with some initial investment in working together closely, you are both now exceedingly successful in each of your jobs. There is a mutual respect for what each of you brings to the table and what you are working to achieve as a team. It feels easy and rewarding and you often wonder why you didn’t do this sooner 

If you have experienced “formula” 1 or 2 – you may not think “formula” 3 is possible. In fact, you are sure it is not possible.  

But here’s the thing – the leap between “simple math” and “exponential math” is just a set of parenthesis – how you organize and work the numbers. The numbers themselves – 1 and 2 – are the same.

 If you find yourself wanting to achieve exponential results as you grow your company and add to your team, consider the following questions: 

  1. What is the vision I have for my business? Can I articulate it clearly to everyone?
  2. What are the things that I like to do and need to do? How can I balance these to achieve my vision?
  3. What complementary skills or resources am I missing to move my business to the next level?
  4. What am I willing to give up to get where I want to go? 

If you are unable to answer these questions or are uncomfortable with the answers, you may not be quite ready to add someone to your team. But spending the additional time on reflection and finding these answers can make all the difference in how you leverage “simple math” into something extraordinary.