The power-play disrespect
Kris Flint, Kansas City, MO

“I was completely blind-sided. T-boned,” Kris Flint says of the split between him and his former business partner. Founders of a successful marketing communications firm, Kris was the operations guy, while his partner ran the creative. They were a dynamic duo — until the agency stopped growing and they couldn’t agree on a new direction.

Kris offered ideas, but he couldn’t get himself heard. He admits to treading lightly because he was worried about undermining the public face of the company. “I undervalued what I was bringing to the partnership,” Kris says now. “I would defer to him because I valued his knowledge, his ideas.”

While Kris was busy trying to create new business, it turned out that his partner — the majority shareholder — had other plans. He activated the buy-sell clause, leaving Kris with just 30 days to raise the money to buy him out, or to sell.

Ultimately, Kris sold — and it’s taken him a long time to let go of the betrayal and stop searching for an explanation of what went wrong: “You can’t go back anyway. You have to open yourself up to new opportunities.”

That said, he wishes he’d had the confidence to be more assertive when things were starting to fray. “Correct an imbalance in a relationship almost immediately,” he advises. “You always have an opportunity to correct someone who isn’t hearing you or is disrespecting you, so take that opportunity early on.”