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Most people think a partnership is a great way to start in business.  In my experience, however, it can be very difficult at best. The tough thing about most partnerships is that they are just like marriages—some make it, some fail.  Making a partnership work involves dealing with a sometimes strange mix of issues and seemingly bizarre compromises; and just like a marriage, a partnership has its days.  A business partnership is so multi-faceted that it will make your head spin on some days and have you jumping for joy on other days.  It might feel all figured out on one day and crazy as all-get-out the next.

So, why is it that some of these partnerships work out a whole lot better than others? We have talked a lot about joint ventures in the 573. The area is full of examples of successful partnerships. This time, we thought we would step outside our area and check out another successful business partnership: the dynamic duo of the hit TV show Fast and Loud, Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman, at their world famous Gas Monkey Garage.
When we arrived at Gas Monkey Garage, it was like walking into the show itself. Actually, they were right in the middle of filming: Richard was dealing with what appeared to be problems on the set; the film crew were waiting for their next directives; and there were hot cars in all stages of rehab.  Yep, just as fast and loud as it looks on TV! They were so busy, in fact, we were only given about 10 minutes to do photography.  Good thing I had my act together—this would have been a meltdown disaster of an inexperienced photographer.  We got our shots and let them carry on with the controlled chaos of a successful business partnership.

The Monkeys…

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Richard Rawlings is a true American entrepreneur.  He’s a hot rod builder, a race car driver and a television personality.  As the star of reality TV show Fast N’ Loud on the Discovery Channel, Richard earns about 50K per episode and has a net worth of approximately 15 million…not bad.  He won first place twice in the Gumball 3000 Rally, while holding the record until 2013 for the shortest time in the Cannonball Run of 31 hours, 59 minutes. Richard is the business brains behind Gas Monkey Garage, as well as the Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill, a tourist destination in Dallas.
Born In 1969, Richard began going to auto shows with his father and soon began tricking out cars on his own at the age of 14.  Within the next six to seven years, he worked as a cop, fireman and paramedic.  Not happy with the income of a public servant, he studied up and started his own printing/advertising company.

After five years, Richard sold his ad company to pursue his dream—hot rods—and launched the Gas Monkey Garage.  He first made a detailed business plan.  He knew he wanted to do something different right from the start.  He wanted his shop to be the best in the world, and he knew he needed the best talent to pull it off.  He needed a partner in the shop while he did the “business” side of the business.  Enter Aaron Kaufman.
When the Gas Monkey Garage opened, Aaron was only 20 years old but already a world class mechanic.  Aaron’s father was into mechanical things, and he helped Aaron build out his first hot rod Jeep at age 16—a child prodigy.

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Aaron joined the team; the die was cast and Gas Monkey Garage was born.  Richard’s plan was coming together.  Richard knew the value of brand and the value of holding it tight: he is fiercely protective of the Gas Monkey brand.

In addition to creating a tenacious brand, Richard had another component outlined in his business plan.  He had an idea to do a reality show about his shop.  In 2012, Richard made his way to the Discovery Channel and pitched his show.  Hence, the Gas Monkey Garage is now the hub of the Discovery Channel series Fast N’ Loud.

Both Richard and Aaron readily admit that being in business is very difficult.  Richard says he went broke two times over the first 10 years of GMG, but he never gave up.  He expresses, “The main element for any success is passion and drive, not giving up and always putting yourself in the position to jump on opportunities when they come your way.  You have to be ready to take the call and you have to be ready to make the calls.”
Make no mistake, GMG is a real business.  They make their money buying, fixing and selling cars.  The show simply documents what is happening.  The crew is on set filming every single day and have been for the past two plus years….creating nearly 70 episodes.  The one point that was non-negotiable for Richard when he made the deal with Discovery Channel was that the show had to be “real.” Discovery would be just a fly on the wall covering what actually happens in the shop.  Richard’s concept has paid off.  Aaron says, “It’s just weird enough to be interesting.”  Hmm, interesting.

Aaron has his own take on work and success. He says, “The key to a successful life is luck and putting yourself out there for lucky things to happen to you.  Do things out of passion and money will come your way.”

Richard and Aaron agree on many things concerning partnerships and how to make them work.  The most important thing about their partnership is trust and knowledge.  They trust each other to do their best…Richard with the business details and Arron with the shop and turning out the product.  Arron says Richard can’t fix a car for nothing, and Richard says Aaron would be broke in 20 minutes if he had to run a business.  They both are the best at what they do, and neither can do the other’s job.  They are kind of like one brain busy doing cool things.

I walked away with one important piece of knowledge after my time at Gas Monkey Garage.  Richard and Aaron are a lot smarter than you could possibly ever imagine.  When you talk one-on-one with these guys, it all makes sense.  You just don’t have that kind of business without skill and thought behind it. What they project on the show—their humor, their sweat, and their well-earned confidence—is 100% the real deal.  When they make a profit on a car, they make the profit.  When they lose money on a deal, they lose money.  Discovery Channel accurately documents both through the camera’s lens.

Richard and Aaron are a good example of how to have successful business partnership. You find your passion, you find someone who can do something better than you, you make a plan, and you NEVER give up.

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