Keeping balance of power balanced To keep things equal, partners work on sharing.

Succeeding in small business

April 29, 1991|By Jane Applegate | Jane Applegate,1991 Los Angeles Times Syndicate Times Mirror Square Los Angeles, Calif. 90053

When Jim Biggs returns the title of president to Wayne Biasetti next year, there will be no ceremony or handing over of the company car keys at Enforcer Products Inc.

"There is no Mercedes," laughs Biggs, who also serves as vice president of sales and marketing for the Cartersville, Ga., firm. "Wayne and I drive identical Chevy trucks. He's got a white one and I've got a gray one."

Biasetti, who founded the growing pesticide and home products company in 1977, decided that sharing power as well as stock with his partners was the best way to keep them happy and productive.

"In order to keep things equal, we took the power out of presidency and rotate the job every two years," Biasetti said. Other than alerting their bankers and attorneys to the change, not much else happens when the power shifts, he said. Employees have no problems adjusting because the partners don't make a big deal about it.

As the company grew, Biasetti said he sought out partners to complement his personal strengths and weaknesses.

"I can't imagine a man so diverse in his talents that he could understand chemists and machinery and deal with the balance sheet and the bankers," said Biasetti. "My advice to other entrepreneurs is to get a partner who is good at your weakest thing."

That's good advice, according to Gerald Newmark, a Tarzana, Calif., management consultant and business owner who specializes in building successful partnerships.

Newmark said sharing power is one way to keep a partnership in balance and thriving. Open communication is another essential ingredient.

"The most important thing is not to be secretive," said Newmark. "Partners need to have structured time together and regular meetings."

Partners who don't trust and rely on each other are doomed to fail.

"Too many partners give lip service to the term teamwork," said Newmark. "They think, 'I know what's right so why doesn't my partner understand me?' "

Benjamin Benson, a consultant and family business expert in Boynton Beach, Fla., believes that shared management is effective only if there is a high degree of trust among the owners.

"It helps if each owner is relatively equal in ability and responsible for different segments of the business," he writes in "Your Family Business," published by Dow Jones-Irwin. "It's also important that the owners have the ability to compromise and reach consensus in decision making."

Back at Enforcer Products, no major decision is made unless all three partners agree.

"We have to agree or we all go down the tubes together," said Biasetti, a former chemical plant manager who is responsible for developing most of Enforcer's products.

While Biasetti is busy in the laboratory and production area, Biggs supervises all sales and marketing efforts. Treasurer Ed Brush is responsible for administrative, data processing and financial issues. Biasetti and Biggs each hold a 40 percent share of the company. Brush, who joined them in 1985, owns the other 20 percent.

In separate interviews at Enforcer's sprawling headquarters, the partners agreed that the secret of their success is to divide the responsibilities and try not to step on each other's toes.

"I'm by no means the smartest one of the three," said Biasetti. Although he has a MBA, Biasetti admits he is weak on matters of finance. That's why he hired Brush, who used to keep Enforcers' books in his spare time while working for another company.

Biggs, who formerly sold mildew remover for another home care products company, guides a nationwide sales force of about 40 and deals with a network of 50 manufacturers representatives. Biggs and Biasetti met while they were both selling products to hardware stores.

The company recently bought a fleet of bicycles to help employees get around the company's 100,000 square-foot warehouse. This year, Enforcer Products expects $50 million in revenues from its 45 home care and pesticide products.

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