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Old 4th November 2009, 11:47 AM   #1

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Default Halp! Egotistical Partner Destroying The Business

A friend and I created an organization in 2006. It was a humble beginning over a bottle of rum where we were searching online for good paintball in the woods information and we just couldn't find anything. Being a network engineer it was nothing for me to create it. I also come from a corporate background in banking and have been president of the board on several NGOs and have chaired certain aspects of political operations during elections.

The organization (something between a club and a league) grew wildly. Going from operating at one paintball field on the west coast to operating across the entire country in most provinces. We went from 2 members (us) to over 1400, with an entire command structure. It's quite something to see it populated. Pretty well everyone is operating on a volunteer basis, with the exception of the General and Captain in respective provinces, who are allowed to use our brand to generate profits provided they kick back a 10% brand fee.

However, as the organization has grown, my partner has not grown with it. When we were a tiny localized group of a bunch of people who sat around and drank beer together he was a perfect fit. That egomaniac guy that everyone remembered and laughed at and with for his nut-bar ways.

There was a major safety incident last December (Dec 2008) where he had been drinking at 8 am in the morning and was shooting at people with their masks off which is a HUGE issue because people can lose eyes. I tried to speak with him about how serious this was and how it could destroy our reputation but he simply blamed the players at our game (we were charging ticket fees). At the time there were 60 hard-core adult players who were willing to come out and brave -15'C weather to play in mid December, everyone was livid, as this was one of the organizers not just some idiot player.

Since then, in the Vancouver area, our organization has fallen to shambles. The majority of the adults in the area have splintered off into their own groups, often citing that our group doesnt take safety issues seriously. Games we used to host that had over 200 paying players we can now barely draw 30. We lost 100 members in the Vancouver area alone within 45 days after the incident.

My problem of course was, that removing him from the command of the group altogether would have been a political nightmare; as he was one of the founders of the group along with me. Not helping matters at all was that he basically told everyone he created the website and did everything and shuffled me to the background, and when I had to push him back a level to at least show that we were taking matters seriously he tried to make it out like it was a power grab.

Well now we have stakeholders in 5 provinces, people who have been actively building our brand across the country. We're a serious force now, with multinational manufacturers paying attention to what we are doing and giving us video interviews for our website (the media portion of our operation), as the "leader" I am personally invited and comped to be the leader of teams in excess of 250 people to represent our group. (Its a win-win, for the operator its a marketing opportunity, for us it's profile).

The problem I am facing is that there is no role for this guy that I can think of. After the safety incident we put him into a role called RSM which was supposed to be the battle standards training officer nationally as he has military experience as he could not be in a direct leadership position. He was tasked to do a bunch of different things one of which being to be sponsored to travel the country and conduct battle schools which would have been very exciting for him.

Only problem is that nobody wants him to do the training. They will name request me to do it, and when I say that is K's job they say forget it nobody likes him and nobody would even pitch in the $125 bus ticket to get him there amongst 30 people. Being a national group of course there is going to be a documentation component as well; he's told me in certain terms he doesnt care whats happening in the rest of the country only Vancouver.

So now I am having problems with regional leaders wanting to have their own RSM as they are getting nothing from my partner. When they try he cries out and says that there should only be one RSM as thats his job - but the problem is he's not doing it.

Every single thing that has been happening lately he has made into some sort of a power struggle. If I am selected to lead a team by a local field operator (because they like my professional style) he will try to circumvent it. I was given operations of a business to run by and for our club and he did his best to thwart it, taking negatively about it in person to anyone who would listen and "crapping on" it when it was posted about online, which sucks the wind out of it the project in the end failed even though it was the cheapest and best value option. Politics are a lot in this business and my partner works in a paintball store so he can talk to people all day long.

Our average age in this city has dropped from 25-35 (sweet spot where people have disposeable income) to 13-17 because of all of this. Active membership has fallen significantly as well and leaders no longer have "buy in" to the system itself so it's breaking down. Outside of Vancouver none of these problems exist; I'm largely in charge of running everything but my partner only has influence in the Vancouver area so I can only assume that the horrible backslide and weak performance is related to him, he's the only variable. We used to have 400 strong members here; now we have maybe 40, this has all happened in the course of the past year.

The guy was my friend but he's not even treating me with respect anymore, and like I said everything is a power struggle. Every statement I make, every initiative I start. The adults see right through it and just roll their eyes but my partner is recruiting an army of children who look up to him like he is some god. That would be a great counter although there's one main problem: they have no money to buy what we're selling.

Our organization is on the cusp of breaking out. We have arranged sponsorship and sales referral deals with national distributors, major multinational manufacturers are paying attention to us, and we have just launched franchising in four provinces. Problem is that the guys outside of Vancouver hate my partner and that's where we're growing, in the area my partner has influence (Vancouver) we are sinking like a stone. He keeps blaming the lackluster performance on me and my initiatives; but I have to take a realistic look and see that my initatives are seen as great outside of Vancouver and even by a lot of people that I speak to here myself; yet we still shrink here locally so that can't be right.

I did a poll on a wide variety of topics and part of the poll was to ask about the performance of both myself as well as the RSM. Over 78% didnt even know what he was supposed to do, compared to 87% knowing what I was supposed to do.

I've put a TON of work into this project (prox 3hrs/day for 3 years now) and want to see it start to finally turn a profit because the growth metrics are exciting (at times we are getting up to 10 new members per week). However when my partner forces everything to be about him and inflating his ego and I'm trying to bring stakeholders together he to be quite honest has been a real drag on growth and quite damaging to the organization at times.

To give an example of where we should be going it would be like the NHL or NBA of paintball in the woods. We were operating in a vaccuum and now competitors are trying to move into our market. We could lose our dominance if we dont ship up shape up and start looking more professional fast.

- I founded the group with him jointly when we started it
- I did all the technical work and documentation, website, etc
- I created the business model and recruited everyone outside of vancouver
- He assisted in the vancouver area but that network is largely in peices now
- He is/was my friend. Now he doesnt really offer me an iota of respect, even shooting at me (paintballs) when I'm on the field trying to lead a huge group of players into battle representing our club, shouting obscenities at me at the top of his lungs

What I dont want:
- to give him "the boot" and have it look like a power grab
- to create even more political drama than he's already created with his aggregious safety violations
- to face even more splintering in the vancouver area

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Old 5th November 2009, 12:54 AM   #2
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This is not really my field but as you can't go on like this, and I doubt a "all cards on the table" discussion is going to get you very far from your description so you have to get him out.

So two thoughts:

1. Buy him out - but I guess you won't be able to agree a price.
2. Separate out Vancouver and sell it to him as he doesn't seem to be interested in anything else.

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Old 16th November 2009, 05:23 PM   #3

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Originally Posted by AdamG View Post
This is not really my field but as you can't go on like this, and I doubt a "all cards on the table" discussion is going to get you very far from your description so you have to get him out.

So two thoughts:

1. Buy him out - but I guess you won't be able to agree a price.
2. Separate out Vancouver and sell it to him as he doesn't seem to be interested in anything else.
Hmm.. I've thought of 1; but I think you're right, agreeing on a price will be nearly impossible because everything is about stoking his ego anyways, he will probably look for a price in the 10,000-100,000x earnings range (earnings are very low anyways)

Number 2 is a tasty idea, provided there is no noncompete; although quite honestly what to sell him that's tangeable is more the problem. The entire organization has been built around adding value to a trademark; thats basically the entire revenue base other than special event revenues which his safety violations have all but killed.

You are correct 100% though, it can't really go on like this, and an "all cards on the table" discussion leads nowhere because he simply changes his mind hour by hour day by day.

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Old 23rd November 2009, 04:08 AM   #4
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Could you start up a new company without him, taking the members with you?

Does he know you are posting here and might read this?

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Old 3rd December 2009, 06:54 PM   #5

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well goodnews and bad news, but the deed is done anyways

The egotistical partner went and tried to launch some coup to "overthrow me" and have me "taken out" amonst the membership. There arent any defacto voting rights specified but basically the officer group (the leaders in the membership) tend to do voting if there is any to be done through their regional leaders up the chain.

his coup attempt started in Ontario, 2000 mi away from the precious Vancouver he was so worried about, and his attempt at a coup failed miserably. when the command group basically unanimously agreed that the guy has got to go it took the decision making responsibilty off my shoulders and due to the fact he was nuked for trying to start a coup and "take over" the optics of me looking like I'm doing a power grab evaporated.

I was expecting more of a mass exodus from the Vancouver area if anything like this ever occurred, but it looks like his ego truly got the better of him this time. Save for three or four of the people he works with, the politics were largely contained and he had very few, if any symathizers anywhere in the country let alone a meagre handful in vancouver out of a membership of 1,000.

I guess he thought he was untouchable as one poster above had said so he was completely floored when the mighty gavel of public opinion came crashing down on him. His accusations of a power grab on my part fell on deaf ears because all his attempts at forging a coup (in the form of private messages, facebook messages, and e-mails) were just posted for all to see for a few days.

In the end it is good... although now as the sole leader nationally I'm of course in the hot seat if we fail at anything, but now I'm free to promote promote promote without fear of this lunatic saying something insane and raising eyebrows. I've gotten our group coverage in three major international magazines as well as a variety of other online outlets, and have launched some hefty new national initiatives that have people talking about other things. The conflict was almost over before it begun.


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Old 6th December 2009, 03:38 PM   #6

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Wow, that sounds really involved and complicated. I'm glad it worked out fine for you!

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