Find Your Partner

The Happy Couple

In her bustling San Francisco offices, Reis-man must surely understand the downside of being in a partnership with a mammoth company, but for right now, hers remains the happy glow of a honeymooner. "This partnership has gone amazingly well for us," she says. "A key is that Petco knows we're building our own brand and own identity. They support us in this, and there's no way we could have come this far so fast without that level of support."

Doesn't she have any worries? Well, she admits, there are two concerns that have continued to win her attention. "A challenge for us is winning the support of management at the store level," she says. Top level management may have signed on to this deal with full enthusiasm, but that doesn't necessarily mean that store managers--who see both their income and advancement within the company as being directly linked to how much sales volume their shops generate--will instantly jump on board.

If they don't? The promised in-store promotion just may not amount to much if banners are left in stock rooms at the back of stores and Petco customers aren't given the word about the Web site. "We recognize this as a potential problem, and we're trying to work on it," says Reisman. "Besides, most managers are Petco shareholders as well, and the value of their shares will go up with our success--and all the local managers know they're going to lose some business to the Internet, so they might as well lose it to their own company."

Speaking of share prices, that brings up Reisman's second problem: the timing of an IPO. She remains tight-lipped as to when it might occur, but certainly a buy-out by Petco is not her ultimate goal. Seem surprising? Not in today's dot.com world, where, increasingly, comparatively new Internet businesses accrue massive market valuations in just a few blinks of an eye. Pretty much all dot.coms see themselves plunging into the public markets, and, with that target in mind, Reisman can only smile: "In fact, we're looking for more partners with strengths in areas where our present partners aren't strong," she says. "In today's market, there's incredible pressure to produce short-term results, and partners are the key. There's no doubt about it: The fastest way to grow in the Internet economy is through partnerships."

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This article was originally published in the February 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Find Your Partner.

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