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How to get along well with your co-founders

I founded and sold several successful tech companies. As an introvert, the most difficult thing for me was handling my relationships with my co-founders especially when we were going through hard times. 

A co-founder relationship is like a marriage. When you start a company, it will be an important relationship to maintain. Because 65% of companies fail because of co-founder conflict, it's important to make sure that you are prepared to handle this relationship.

Here are some things that I learned along the way that helped me get better at handling my co-founders.

If you need more help dealing with a co-founder, MentorDial mentor, Mike Moyer, is an expert in this area. Book a call with him today.

Ask questions  

In the beginning, before going into business with your co-founder, it's important to ask tough questions. You need to know that this person will have your back when the going gets tough or that he is someone that you will be able to rely on when you get $10 million dollars in VC money.

Here are some questions to ask to build trust:

  1. What are your values? 
  2. What kind of work culture do you want to build? I once worked with a co-founder who was very cutthroat and that didn't go so well because I'm very collaborative in nature. Make sure that you are on the same page.
  3. What is the long-term vision for the company? Do you want to get acquired? Do you want to IPO? etc.
  4. What's your working style? 
  5. How do you handle stress? I am pretty level-headed when it comes to handling stress, but not everyone is like that. I once worked for a co-founder who tended to get mean when he was under-stressed, and it wasn't a pleasant work experience. 

It takes 7-10 years for startups to "make it" if they have a chance. If you start a business, you might have to deal with your co-founder for that long. During that time, you'll go through a lot of ups and downs. If you don't ask the tough questions, in the beginning, you'll have a harder time.

Clarify your roles

It is important for both of you to know what you're doing. Who is in charge of tech? or product? Make sure you are on the same page about what your exact roles are and that your employees understand who is responsible for what. 

Conduct Scenario Planning 

It is a good idea to sit down with your co-founder and go through several scenarios that will help you prepare for the future. For example

  1. What happens if one of us has to fire an employee who is a friend?
  2. What happens if one of us gets more press than the other?
  3. What happens if one of us wants to sell but the other doesn't?
  4. What happens if we disagree on strategy?
  5. What happens if one of us wants to leave?

The earlier you answer these questions, the better. It will help you prepare for these events in the future. When they do happen, you can go back to what you talked about and have a good framework to make a decision.

Have regular 1-1s

Spend time with your co-founder after work. This is a good way to build trust. Go on hikes or bike rides. You will be going through a lot together. It will be hard to maintain the relationship at times if you don't put 1-1s on your schedule. This also helps clarify misunderstandings. Little things build up if you don't have a way to vent your frustration and share your concerns. This is a good way to remind each other why you started the company together in the first place. 

Have conflict meetings

Don't shy away from conflict. Have a meeting every two weeks to discuss tough topics. Make sure these meetings stay productive. Don't yell. Discuss the topic at hand and come to a peaceful resolution. It's OK if you disagree. At least you talked through it, and it's always good to have these discussions.

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A co-founder relationship can be hard to maintain. As the company grows, it gets even harder. Stress, greed, misunderstands, etc can get in the way of your relationship. It's important that you stay strong and level-headed. When you're upset, take some time for yourself to calm down, and only when you are calm, should you approach your co-founder with your concerns.

Starting a business? Do you need help handling co-founder conflict? Find a business mentor on mentordial.com.

 

 

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