The partners in each of these Inc. 500 businesses knew one another long before working together.
Bonding over Barbecue
The partners: Friends about town Met: 1982 Fused: 1991 Bonding event: Holiday dinners and backyard barbecues
After moving to the San Francisco suburb of Novato, in 1982, Ray Henricksen worked as an independent sales rep hawking ergonomic office equipment, such as wrist rests and back-friendly chairs. But in 1991 the chair company that Henricksen represented went bankrupt and his wrist-rest supplier was having trouble meeting deadlines. Both developments jeopardized the business he had built with dozens of customers. So he asked his friend Brenda Hartley, who sewed for a hobby, if she could step in as a short-term manufacturer.
The Hartleys had arrived in Novato from Britain within weeks of the Henricksens' move from Chicago. The couples, who have four boys between them, had met at a day-care center. Soon the families were spending Thanksgiving and Christmas together.
Before long, Hartley was crafting about 1,000 wrist rests a month. Then Tom James, a neighbor and barbecue guest of the Henricksens, heard about the nascent company, now called WorkRite Ergonomics (#434). He quit his job at Federated Department Stores and signed on.
By 1993, Henricksen's products were generating $733,000 in revenues, thanks largely to Hartley (who became the company's chief financial officer) and James (who is now vice-president of marketing). For what he describes as a "nominal" sum, Henricksen let his pals buy in as partners, each with a 20% stake. Now they hold shares in a $21-million company.
The partners: Former college roommates Met: 1986 Fused: 1995 Bonding event: Sharing dishes from the old country
In upstate New York there isn't much Indian food. So how are two young men of Indian descent supposed to feed their yearnings for it? In the mid-1980s Santhana Krishnan and Yash Shah, who were roommates at Clarkson University, in Potsdam, N.Y., trekked together to Montreal, where Krishnan had relatives who plied them with Indian delicacies.
The road trips cemented their friendship. A few years after graduation they lived together in Waltham, Mass., where each worked. Krishnan taught at Bentley College, and Shah was a programmer at software powerhouse TRW. In 1992, Shah became an IT consultant for Hewlett-Packard. A year later Krishnan joined Shah's division. In March 1995 the two men left HP to start their own IT consulting business.
Today, as partners at $5-million InteQ (#272), based in Burlington, Mass., the verbally polished Krishnan is CEO, and the technically adept Shah is president and chief technology officer. But in other realms of their lives they could swap places. Not only were their daughters born within a week of each other, but the two men live on the same street in a Boston suburb. Occasionally, they even share an Indian meal together.
The partners: Father and son Met: At son's birth, in 1953 Fused: 1989 Bonding event: Father-and-son chats
As a sideline to his day job managing a mill at Scott Paper Co. in Westbrook, Maine, Howard Reiche acquired antiques from estate sales and resold them. Reiche's wife's family had owned the antiques business for three generations. From an early age Reiche's son, Ford, watched his father carefully, knowing that he too would inherit the business someday. But as it turned out, Ford joined his father in starting a business that had nothing to do with antiques and everything to do with his dad's job at the mill.
Howard, who oversaw the mill's finances, was aware of how much the business saved in shipping cargo by rail rather than by truck or plane. He wondered, Why don't all nonperishable products reach Maine by train?
His son, meanwhile, had become a lawyer specializing in corporate work, which he considered tedious. He and his father conferred with Paul Turina, an environmental consultant whom Ford had retained as an expert in his law practice. The three men realized that Maine lacked a rail facility that could handle the bulk transfer of chemicals. Spotting an opportunity, they founded Safe Handling (#418) 11 years ago to provide such a facility. The Reiches and Turina became partners in what is now a $6-million company.