Complementary Collaboration

The New York Times describes business partners who complement each other.

When the Lamp Dude and the Academic decided to go into business together, it had all the makings of a minidisaster. He, after all, could remember every Grateful Dead show he ever attended. She, on the other hand, was more interested in women’s issues and public policy. She is analytical and reflective and thrives on team-building. He is a free spirit who prefers to work solo.

Still, that did not stop them from trying to build a successful home furnishings company – and 13 years later, they have more than done it.

“We fill in for each other’s strength and weaknesses,” said Margaret A. Traub (a k a the Academic), 48, president and chief executive of Adesso, the company she and Lee Schaak founded in August 1994.
Ms. Traub, a civil rights activist, was born and bred in Westchester County, N.Y., and she attended Harvard.

Mr. Schaak, 43, the company’s long-haired Hawaiian-shirt-wearing chairman, grew up in St. Paul and went to the University of Colorado, where he spent as much time on the ski slopes as in the classroom.

“It was a major concern, going into business together,” he said. “Peggy and I are so night-and-day different in every way, so I knew it would bring many extra challenges to the table. And who needs extra challenges? We have enough normal challenges as it is.”

Still, they maintain that their different personality styles actually help them with their business.

“Even if we don’t agree, we trust each other,” said Ms. Traub, who is in charge of operations, finances and marketing, while Mr. Schaak runs sales and product development. We know that we each have nothing but the best of interests for the company and each other,” she said.

I admire and envy people like Traub and Schaak who can find those opposite-type-folks where the whole ends up being greater than the sum of the parts. I would rather have a business partner who complements (and challenges) me, than someone who is my clone. And of course, personality style is only vector to explore those complements.


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