In business there are no ideal partners.
When it came to drugs, Walter White, the lead character in Breaking Bad, had the technical skills and knowledge. He was the “chemist” but he knew nothing of the street, his customers, distribution methods or dealing with the competition. He did know he had a quality product. He needed someone with experience of the commercial side of the business and the contacts to go with it which is why he stuck with an unreliable, disorganised and occasionally panicky partner: his former chemistry pupil Jesse.
‘When one partner is more cautious and the risks are not shared evenly − then you get into trouble’
They started off small trading on the outstanding quality of the product. However, they soon realised they had to deal with some volatile, unsavory and untrustworthy big players who had no qualms about exploiting and intimidating them. They tried going it alone but their inexperience made them vulnerable to being taken advantage of by the big boys; their only option was to do a deal with a really big operator with a national network.
Whiter the white?
Two problems: their new partner demanded a bigger share of the profits and in an unequal relationship their new partner insisted on full disclosure, whereas they knew nothing about their new partners’ other business interests.
‘Partnerships are tricky and across the public and private sector divide that is doubly so’
Walt’s motives were honourable: he didn’t want to force his family into debt to pay his medical bills as he died of cancer, especially as he knew that even successful treatment would only buy him a few more months. He was well motivated and quickly realised if he wanted to provide a secure financial future for his family in the time he had left he needed to expand the business. His original partner’s motives were simply to make some money and his ambitions were more modest: a flat-screen TV, a newer car. Expansion certainly meant more profit but also more risk. And in this business we are talking life and death.
When one partner is more motivated, more ambitious; when one partner is more cautious and the risks are not shared evenly; when being disorganised and unreliable goes from an irritating trait to a serious threat to the business − then you get trouble.
Partnerships are tricky and across the public and private sector divide that is doubly so.