Why did I leave the company that I spent 10 years building?
The short answer is that I was forced out. I started the Fillo Painting with my father. We never made up a contract, we didn't have an operating agreement. It was informal because I trusted that my father would respect his word. He, like many other people, is honest in that they believe that they are honest. When they do something that goes against that belief they rationalize that for some reason or excuse "technically" they are still being honest. My father did this by promising me ownership but later rationalizing that he had meant as an inheritance. I had understood a 50/50 partnership, why else would I take part in it? .
We continued in business for 10 years. Every bit of that time I was working hard to build the company up and at every turn he was either hanging back refusing to participate in planning, even when I would repeatedly invite him to strategize with me, or he was hanging out taking it easy. While he was taking it easy I was working 12 hour days 6 days a week sometimes 7. I worked during the day and dreamed about the business at night. Over the years I fought for ownership finally settling on 45%.
He was convinced that the business existed thanks to him because he invested the small amount of capital we started with in the beginning but he didn't count the investment that I made, which was my unpaid or underpaid time for years. When I say underpaid I mean not even minimum wage. I did this with the understanding that we were partners! For years! In his mind he thought he was somehow doing me a favor, something that he would say to me when we fought, and we fought often. I say we fought because anything with him was a fight or you would get run over.
I knew I should have left in the beginning but I was already invested. By the time I figured out the situation I was in, a year had passed, then two, then three. I was in too deep to let it go. All of my hard work, how could I? I tried bringing up a contract, an operating agreement… He refused. I should have left 1000 times…. but how could I abandon MY company… MY hard work!
He was abusive, just as he had been throughout my childhood. Verbally and physically as well. We fought every year when it was time to split up our earnings. He would run all of his expenses through the business… profit was to be split after that. He thought that was honesty. He felt entitled to that. He undermined my decisions at every opportunity. My successes, even when they made him money, were offensive to him. They hurt his ego. The accomplishments of his son hurt his ego…
Our last fight wasn’t out of the ordinary for him, it was indicative of our entire business relationship. The reasons for the fight were also the same as always. I went to talk to him about business… He took my business concerns as a slight… I don’t know how but he did. Actually, I do know how... I know it was his traumatic childhood, coming from a war-torn country. I know it was that he was not wanted or loved by his mother or father. I know.
He somehow found a way to think I was trying to take control. Maybe he thought I was trying to cheat him because he was doing it to me. There was no logical reason but I know my father and this was normal for him. Everyone is out to get him. Everyone will betray you. Your mother, your father…. He raised me the same way. It took years for me to understand that this was not the right way to be, I still struggle with it. I know it stems from the rough life he has lived.
When we had our fight at the height of our argument he swung at me, he charged at me. I could have easily taken this opportunity to get back at him for his lifetime of abuse and anyone that knew of his abuse would say I was justified… but I had restraint. I am proud of my self control. Coming from the childhood that I came from, coming from having a violent father like him... He repaid me by hitting me with a metal patio chair.
Days later after things cooled down… I reached out in an email. Obviously we could not continue as partners...
...He refused to dissolve our partnership. As the majority owner he had the control. He thought he could hold me hostage, I suppose. Maybe he thought I would let it go… he had gotten away with beating me my whole life, beating all of my siblings, my mother… Why wouldn’t he assume that he could get away with it now?
Not this time. It wasn’t the last straw, the last straw passed years ago... but I was done with him this time. I was not going to back down. He was going to have to figure something out.
After months and lots of pressure, he bought me out. He bought me out, but at much less than what I put into the company, at much less than the company was worth… and he is still somehow mad at me. I had disrespected him. I had put him through a nightmare by not allowing him to get away with his actions. This IS MY FATHER…
To understand his mentality I will share a short anecdote that he reminded me and my siblings of our entire life. His grandfather, who raised him because his parents abandoned him, was a man that none of his children would have the audacity to look in the eye…. They could not look him in the eye because this man would beat them. My father would recount this with a gleam in his eyes. With pride. That is what a man is supposed to be... That is my father. That is what he expected from his children.
I have started my own company. My father might say he bought me out. He did but for at best 60% of what I put in. He is upset at me. I am going to let him go. I am letting go of the company that I built. I am letting go of any business relationship. I am letting go of any resentment. I am letting go of any hate or anger. I am also letting go of any love for him. It is not an easy thing to do. There are consequences for me and my family over it, but it is the right thing to do. I can’t raise my children around someone like that. I can’t allow them to believe that this kind of relationship is acceptable. I won’t.