Aaron and I went to the same high school in the Midwest, ended up at the same private university on the East Coast (both paying for it with music scholarships), and have been building businesses together since we were teenagers. He has literally been part of my life for a vast majority of it (my younger sisters point out that they have known him from the time they were 6 years old and 14 years old, respectively).
I understand the sentiment that Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have toward each other; there is no junior partner or senior partner, but rather equal partners. Regardless of the fact I control a majority of the equity, if Aaron isn’t on board with a project, it doesn’t happen. Although I don’t pay myself a salary from any of the companies, he is paid (and rightfully so). He deserves every penny.
He enables me to focus on the things I want to do. When we were building our first company, he made sure there was always coffee, the laundry was done, the cars had gas in them, the bills were paid, and that I could focus on doing what was necessary to build the engine that would provide us with the stream of earnings. He believed in both me and the business model when there was no external, tangible proof.
He made it clear from the beginning that his goal was to end up like Charlie Munger and that the businesses were a mechanism for him to achieve that. He wanted to sit on the Board of Directors, wear a cashmere sweater, and collect dividends, profits, salaries, and interest income so he could do bonsai, practice violin, compose music, paint, and play video games. Occasionally, he may want to develop some real estate and it would be my job to make sure the money was there when the time came.
Aaron is kind and long-suffering (as one of our friends pointed out, “that man has the patience of a saint!”). In business, however, he is absolutely ruthless. Most people who meet him never see it but rest assured, if you were to compete against him, no matter how close you were, he would destroy you. He will graciously nod his head as you are hateful and insulting, and then six months later, you’ll find out that he opened a store across the street from you and took your best clients simply to make a point. One of the reasons we work so well is that we are both fiercely protective of the people about whom we care.