Sunday is Valentine's Day, and while many of you may not think so, I really am a romantic at heart. Just ask the people that really know me. It takes a lot of heart to keep going back to the business altar as many times as I have. In the last year, there was Frost Ruttenberg & Rothblatt in Chicago, then Smart Devine in Philadelphia and DGLF in Nashville. And those are just the 2015 "hook-ups." That's a lot of love, even for Marcum.
The thing is, we've figured out how to make it work. And I think what we've learned through a lot of trial (and a modicum of error) is pretty universal. Here is what we've found are the keys to success, according to the Marcum formula:
1. Chemistry. There have to be sparks between the principals. Even if they don't fly on the first date, the connection between the firms in terms of personality, values, culture and general sensibility is the foundation on which everything else will be built. No chemistry, no hope.
2. Vision. You don't necessarily need to see the world through the same pair of glasses, but you do need be looking in the same direction. Shared goals are a must for businesses contemplating a combination. Without a common vision, the parties will end up on different paths, and not to belabor the metaphor, but the effort required of the teams on both sides will be squandered if things should split when you come to a fork in the road. You have to be willing to walk together.
3. Complementary strengths and weaknesses. Both sides must bring something to the table that makes the other party better for the partnership. In Marcum's case, we look for partners that either expand our geographic footprint, deepen our bench in specific industry niches or add a new specialty to our service offering - or a combination of the above. All for the benefit of our clients. What Marcum brings is national scope, an extensive range of industry expertise and a track record of growth. Just as in life, the whole must be greater than the sum of the parts in order for the marriage to thrive.
4. Growth potential. Every marriage must move forward if it is to survive. Standing still - expecting that what works today will work tomorrow, failing to seek out growth opportunities - can kill the promise in an otherwise well-matched partnership. Both parties must continue to mature, to acquire more complexity and to contribute to the future of the marriage, not just hold their own in the present.
5. Stamina. Life is not always a picnic, and neither is business, no matter how much you love what you do and how well you work with your partners and your clients. A good partnership must be able to withstand the challenges that inevitably arise, hopefully gain something from the experience and come out stronger on the other end. You cannot cave at the first sign of trouble or at the last; you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make it work for the benefit of your company, your clients, your staff, and even your vendors, all of whom rely upon you to do the best you can for them.
Of course, there's no such thing as perfection. The best we all can hope for, in life and in business, is the best we can do. We have to be flexible enough and committed enough to know what mid-course corrections are necessary and appropriate, and optimistic enough to believe we can overcome whatever obstacles we may encounter along the way. I'm happy to say that at Marcum, so far it's been working for us. We've been extremely lucky in courtship and in marriage. And if it's not wedded bliss 100 percent of the time, what marriage is? As a rule, "I do" has been significantly better for us than "I don't."
Tracy and I will be celebrating Valentine's Day on Sunday. I wish the same for all of you - success, gratification and, above all, love.