Many budding entrepreneurs have dreams of building a Fortune 500 company on their own and becoming a household name on par with Jobs, Gates or Branson. But in reality, the entrepreneurial process is collaborative in nature. An effective co-founder can make it that much easier. Choosing someone to start a business with is a big decision and can mean the difference between your company growing to new heights or burning out quickly.
Work With Someone Who Understands The Difference Between Disagreement And Disrespect
One of the main reasons founding a company with a partner is so rewarding is that you have a partner to share the struggles and victories with; someone who uniquely understands what you are going through and can lighten your literal and metaphorical burdens. However, it’s important to remember that it won’t be all smiles and kudos.
You and your co-founder are going to disagree about aspects of the company both significant and minute. It’s a simple fact of doing business together, and it’s healthy. What’s crucial during times of disagreement is to always make sure that you emerge from the debate with your respect for each other still intact. If you are thinking of working with someone and notice that they have a tendency to take disagreements to a personal level, you’re better off going in a different direction.
You’ve probably heard the joke about choosing which 80 hours of the week you get to work as an entrepreneur. And while there is some truth to the idea that starting a company requires a significant time investment, every entrepreneur needs time away from the job in order to avoid burn out. Find a partner who understands that spending time away from the office with family and friends is vital to your health and the health of the company, who won’t interrupt you and demand immediate answers to non-critical questions when you make a point to go to your child’s school play.
Insist On A Clear Definition Of Roles
One of the most common pitfalls for entrepreneurs is failing to define the roles of the co-founders early in the relationship. When a company is in its infancy, it’s easy to think that you and your collaborator(s) can handle any issues relating to delegation as they come along, but power struggles can wreak havoc much more quickly than many people assume.
Be wary of people who pay lip service to platitudes like, “I’m just an ideas person; we’ll figure it out along the way.” Instead, find a partner who will sit down with you in the early planning stages and determine what each founder’s specific responsibilities will be and where their authority lies in the cases of disputes. When decisions need to be made on the fly, each party will have a clear sense of whether it’s their immediate responsibility to take action or whether they can take on more of a support role.
But Always Make The Big Decisions Together
That being said, when it comes to the mission-critical decisions that will shape the major functions of the company, you and your co-founder should commit yourselves to discussing the decisions together. Nothing fosters a sense of resentment more quickly than when one partner makes a unilateral decision that will have significant ramifications on the direction of the company for years to come.
This includes all hiring decisions early in the lifespan of the organization. More than anyone else, the initial hires will leave their mark on the culture and processes of the company, and this is a task that’s too important for the co-founders to delegate (either to each other or to someone below them on the organizational chart).
Try To Find Someone Who Brings A Different Skillset To The Table
We all have our particular strengths and weaknesses as professionals, and we bring these qualities with us when we start a new organization. Although it may not always be possible, one effective strategy for creating an agile company from the beginning is to find a collaborator who excels in some area where you are lacking.
Collaborate With Someone You Enjoy Spending Time With
You’re going to be spending a significant amount of time with your co-founder as you build and run the enterprise, hopefully for many years to come. Some of this is going to be time you wish that you could be spending with your children, your significant other or your friends instead of working another late night. In order to make this time more productive and bearable, one of the best things you can do is work with someone with whom you genuinely enjoy interacting.
This doesn’t mean you have to be best friends and become inseparable, but if you have the ability to collaborate with someone you have a connection with, it makes the process much easier in the long run. You won’t automatically dread the time you are required to spend together, and each of you can concentrate on supporting each other through the ups and downs of growing a nascent company.