A Primer on Partnerships: 2
The longest-standing partnership by far is the pairing of two New Yorkers, namely Gregory Clayman and Chuck Tsiamis, an unbreakable and unbeatable bond that began in third grade. Clayman and Tsiamis are the brains behind Video Secrets, the internationally known provider of pay-per-view products, including the award-winning Flirt4Free and Flirt4VIP, which offer group chats, special promotions and downloadable videos and features. Hundreds of thousands of customers take advantage of Video Secrets' Internet offerings on a regular basis.
"We both started out in the financial services industry and met people through our networking," Clayman says. "Together, we came up with the idea of starting a live video chat company strictly for adult entertainment. That was back in 1996. We thought that with the right dedication and technology, we could do it better than everything that was out there. The rest is history."
For Clayman and Tsiamis, the progression to success was an easy one.
"There's an old saying that advises you to choose your friends wisely and choose your partner even more so," Clayman says. "People looking to partner up with other people have to really look at all the pros and cons, such as possible conflicting opinions, problem solving together, working together to achieve a common goal and leading by example. It truly becomes a marriage, and Chuck and I have been there for each other professionally over the past 10 years at every turn. The most successful marriages make it because the couples are willing to communicate. The same goes for partnerships. You have to give and take — not just take."
Clayman admits that the biggest challenge for their partnership was the natural growing pains of building the company from a startup to a success story.
"There was no book or class we could take on how to lay out a business plan like ours in the adult industry," he says. "We felt we were paving the way for how a business should be run. It's all about riding the wave and staying on top of the wave."
One way the Clayman-Tsiamis partnership stayed on top was from a solid agreement on policy and procedures for hiring qualified personnel and incorporating business strategies that reflected their partnership.
"Being able to trust someone is the biggest benefit of having a partner," Clayman says. "It's all about being able to care about someone and treat them like family. Because of that, we've formed a phenomenal team at Video Secrets. A partnership has to be a fair distribution of responsibility."
Clayman and Tsiamis advise choosing a partner wisely and taking the proper legal precautions to protect that bond.
Just Like A Marriage
"Once you have chosen a partner, make sure to see your lawyer and draft up all the proper documents," Clayman says. "Relationships, albeit spousal or business, do break up. When and if that day comes, both people involved want to make sure it is a smooth breakup. For Chuck and me, we were friends and partners in business, and we plan on being friends and hopefully partners for the rest of our lives."
A slightly different style of partnership that enjoys equal success in the industry is the pairing of Brian Randall and Chris Ward of Raging Stallion, one of the leading producers and distributors of gay-themed features. The latest honor this innovative organization has received is the San Francisco Bay Guardian's 2006 Best Gay Porn Studio Name.
What makes theirs a unique partnership is the fact that each owns a separate company, yet they work together and have even set up another venture together. Each has a separate piece of the Raging Stallion pie, and as Randall says with a smile, "Our pie keeps getting bigger."
The two entrepreneurs met through mutual business relationships. Randall was producing videos in Sydney and was distributing his products through the same company as Ward. They saw each other's videos and were impressed. They struck up a friendship three years ago and decided to combine their strengths and strategies shortly thereafter.
While a key objective for coming together was to increase revenue, they also realized the benefits of utilizing the specialized skills each brought to the table.
"I'm very much the digital person," Randall says. "I was involved in cable, the Internet, broadcast, satellite and such. I had set up my company to basically be an Internet-centric company, while Chris had a company that focused on DVD. My Internet and technology strengths were a good match with Chris' talents as a top adult director and distributor. We are scarily similar. I see myself in him and vice versa. We totally get where the other is coming from and feel the same about many things. We have the same perspective on how to sell, market and build our business. We are both interested in delivering the best and producing the best. We are both workaholics and, for better or worse, it is like a marriage."
Like any marriage, the two partners experience disagreements from time to time. But how do they get past them?
"On occasion, we have locked horns, but generally speaking we both know each other well enough that we can work through it," Randall says. "We know each other's buttons and choose not to push them. It's all about respect and treating your partner as you would treat yourself. If both people do that, it means a good relationship. The biggest drawback sometimes is deciding who should do the really crappy work. You can't always delegate that to your business partner."
As far as their biggest challenge, this partnership works very hard at keeping the pace.
"Maintaining our production volume is challenging because we are incredibly prolific when it comes to producing and distributing product," Randall says. "A partnership can be stressed when it comes to maintaining systems and keeping everyone in the company happy. It is unrelenting, especially when you're releasing three new titles each month. Our partnership helps overcome these obstacles because it enables us to do what we each do best. The talents of each partner get the goals accomplished."
But the real secret, Randall says, is having mutual respect, complementary skills, similar emotional and technical levels and a good sense of humor.
"The primary deal-breakers for any partnership are dishonesty and different goals and objectives," Randall says. "Think long and hard about who you're going to partner work with and take very small steps. Work together for a while before jumping into a contract. In our industry, you have to be on at all times if you want to stay ahead. When forming a partnership, make sure each partner is going to work hard and work well in a demanding environment. Don't forget, take baby steps."