Without Fear

My business partner left yesterday for a well-deserved six-month sabbatical, marking the end of a partnership that has spanned almost two decades. June 30th marks the official day we sell the remainder of the shares we hold in our former company, Karyo Communications, to the company that acquired us five years ago, Edelman.

I have agreed to stay on as GM until October, when I start my new job with Edelman as Chief Client Officer for Canada, a national role that takes advantage of my 30+ years in PR and communications.

While there are so many great things to say about the acquisition and how it’s gone, this post is not about that. It’s about Paul Welsh, my partner, and our almost two decades together. Paul’s parting words to the office are just one more indication of the man he is, the vision he has — and his ability to articulate it in the simplest of terms. It’s one more example of why I have been so proud to be in partnership with him, and what I’ve learned from him. Earlier this week, Paul described the fundamentals of our partnership as him pushing and me shaping. Paul was never satisfied with good, or good enough. He had a hunger for us to be great. (I’ve always described the fundamentals of our partnership as mutual torment, but that’s another post altogether.)

As is often the case, after reading Paul’s words, I wished I had written them.

“Please keep working without fear. Please keep asking for what you want. Please keep thinking big, not small. Please keep putting your clients and fellow team members ahead of yourselves and your own ambition. These things will deliver collective success and take care of each of you in the process.”

This has been, without a doubt, exactly how Paul tackled the last two decades. Without fear. Pushing. Asking, often demanding. Never satisfied with good. Looking for the big idea. The right idea. The idea that made a difference. Happy to be in the background while I took more of the limelight. Happy to give his teams the chance to shine, but having their backs, like he always had mine. And in the process, not as an end or a goal, we thrived. Our business grew more than 10% every year but one. We climbed to the spot of #1 PR firm in Vancouver five years ago and have maintained that place ever since. We were acquired by the largest, and the best, PR firm in the world — taking us to places we never thought possible.

I have said many times, before Paul joined me as a partner in Karyo, I had worked for more than a decade to create the kind of company people wanted to work in. And Paul focused on ensuring we had the kind of work people wanted to do. Work that attracted the best and the brightest.

The lessons I’ve learned about what makes a successful partnership from my time with Paul are simple, not profound:

1. Have each others back.

2. Be each others biggest fan.

3. Make it safe to go at the idea, knowing that you’re not going at each other.

4. Give each other permission to make family the #1 priority.

It’s not even been a day since Paul’s departure and I already look forward to his return.


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