Co-founders are key for the success of a business but many founders overlook the importance of building a great team and fall into the trap of working with and employing people who might initially support their idea but who in time, are not the right fit or don’t bring the right skills. Consequently, it is important to conduct proper vetting of anyone you start a business with or hire into key positions. These are some of the signs to look out for when assessing if you and your co-founders are likely to make a good team.
1. You have a similar work ethic
It is important that you have the same (or at least similar) values, morals and work ethic. Also, that you have a similar perspective on how hard you both want to work and how you work.
Is your co-founder more laissez-faire or hands-on than you?
You don’t want a “mini-me” or carbon copy of you but, if co-founders don’t share a similar work ethic this can often lead to clashes and misunderstanding. It is important to align your goals, your ambition for the company and what steps you’re both willing to take to achieve these goals. Thus, according to Bestlife Magazine:
“Basic values aligned is an important consideration…For example: Make a profit at the expense of what—environment, animals, relationships/people? What is the single most important reason you want to start a business? This goes to your personal values and needs to be at the forefront of any relationship with a business partner.”
Hence, having the same morals, values and work ethic will mean you are and your co-founders are starting off on the right foot and in agreement about what matters.
Consequently, finding a team that has the same or similar ethic as you, will set a great tone throughout the company.
2. It feels like you are in a partnership (tag team)
Essentially, you and your partners should be working as a team.
In any given sports team all of the players are equally important, but they will have different positions and roles. Those different positions are needed in order to reach the goal. Not everyone can play in any position as they may not be trained for that particular role.
As in sports, it is important that the co-founders in any startup play as a team, this means giving opportunities to the other team members to reach the goal, and not hogging all of the responsibility to themselves in order to make themselves look good.
In addition, in order for any company to succeed nobody should retain full responsibility of overseeing everything (this is almost impossible and probably self-defeating), instead, duties should be delegated fairly among each of the co-founders and ultimately to key staff members, so the business isn’t all about a select number of people.
3. You are equally committed to the business venture
Your new business venture should ideally be seen as a full-time job for both you and your other co-founders. If your co-founders see this as a part-time job or a side job, it may be that they are not fully committed to the business venture.
You need someone who takes initiative and who is willing to push the company forward. Anyone who doesn’t have that sort of commitment may not be worth having in the company.
Furthermore, it is important to have committed people in your company, especially in the beginning. Getting an investor to fund the company is tough, there may be a lot of let downs and disappointments. However, during those times you want to have people who persevere and who do not give up on the business.
4. Things run smoothly (without much fuss)
There will inevitably be bumps and rough patches along the road. However, you would want your co-founders to be people who you don’t argue with. Instead of bickering, you should be discussing the solutions to the problems that you face. Ideally, you want people who just do it and get on with it and essentially people that you can rely on.
If you want your company to run smoothly these are some types of people that you should consider to be on your team or as your fellow co-founders.
5. There are open lines of communication
A good indicator to know if you are in alignment with your co-founders is that not only do you communicate but that you look forward to communicating with each, face-to-face, via the phone, text or by email. And that you see it as mandatory and necessary for the success of your company.
You don’t necessarily have to be the closest of friends with your co-founder but you do need to have a solid understanding of who they are. Their personality traits, their interests and their lives.
Something that would help you and your co-founders become more in tune with it each is to take time outside of your work and spend time bonding on things non-work related. This can be in the form of a varied array of hobbies or events that might interest you.
Often spending quality time with each other will make you more open and receptive to having more open and deeper conversations, because you would be familiar with each other and not complete strangers.
6. You are stronger together than you are separately
“We all have different skills and talents. And that’s one of the greatest advantages to having a co-founder. He brings something completely different to the table. Whether it’s because he’s a stronger manager, marketer, or technician than you are, it’s these complementary skills and talents that can make a startup successful. Microsoft had Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. Apple had Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Google had Sergey Brin and Larry Page. If your co-founder isn’t complimenting your skills and making the company better as a whole, it’s time to find a different co-founder” – Inc.com
Having someone who compliments and completes your skill set is one of the major reasons for having a co-founder, having someone around who does what you can’t do. As much as we all like to think that we are well-rounded people, this often is not the case, we may be lacking in expertise or experience.
It is important to have someone who has more experience than you and who has faced certain scenarios that you haven’t come across in your career. Having someone who has been through certain obstacles before will help guide and advise you if you were to go through those circumstances.
Furthermore, amongst some co-founders, some may be better at pitching to investors while some may be better at developing software, for example. These roles are all vital for the growth of your company, therefore it is important to keep a large pool of people with different skills in your company.
7. You encourage and energise each other
Everybody has bad days due to many different reasons, such as personal circumstances and illnesses, during those times you need someone with a positive attitude. A positive can-do attitude is infectious and will often lift your mood during those hard times.
It is also important that you have someone who can speak reason into your life, when you are feeling down or like things are not working out the way you want them to.
8. Problems are solved quickly and efficiently
When you and your co-founders are in alignment it would be easier to trust each other’s judgments. This will make problem-solving within the company that much more efficient.
Knowing what your co-founders expect from you will also make making decisions so much easier. This will ultimately save time and make room for you to do other things.
9. You have complementary (but not too similar) personalities and skill sets
Having complementary personalities will usually lead to less conflict with the co-founders. Two people who are extremely strong headed, proud and stubborn would lead to constant arguments. In contrast, two people who are both introverted may not be as assertive as one has to be in business.
10. Honesty is a crucial element of any successful relationship
It is important that you and your fellow co-founders are brutally honest with each other (while still being respectful). Honesty ensures that your company is transparent. Mistakes and flaws and flaws made by company owners will automatically be seen in the company itself. This would lead to numerous business faux pas and give rise to a potential dismantling of the company.
It is important That you trust your co-founders enough to be honest with them for the good of the company and yourself.
Some additional quotes on the importance of co-founders fit and alignment;
“You don’t have to be best friends with your co-founder to have a harmonious and successful business relationship, but it is helpful to take an interest in each other’s personal lives. Many entrepreneurs often feel they are alone at the summit of a mountain.”
“To guard against such scenarios is to collaborate early in the partnership and decide who will take ownership of distinct parts of the business. Record these divisions of duties in writing and let your team members know so they can ask the appropriate partner when they have requests. Then, you have to respect the authority of your partner to make decisions within their sphere”.
“One of the big surprises in these types of disputes is that the issue may have been a total misunderstanding, or that your partner was afraid to speak up about something relatively harmless. An open, trusting, non-judgmental environment with no one else around is the key to eliciting these kind of conversations.”
“Find people good at the things you are not. If you and your business partner are too alike and enjoy working on the same things, all ‘the other stuff’ is going to get neglected,” says Nathan Kontny, CEO of Highrise.
“You also need to have a co-founder who is in it for the long run. Even if your co-founder agrees to a vesting option, that doesn’t mean she is 100 percent committed to the business. Will she stand beside you when you hit rough patches? Will she pick you up when you feel like a failure?”
“Trust implies that both parties participate in the relationship with both ‘gives’ and ‘gets.’ – Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup Company
“Your early partners, co-founders, investors and hires are crucial to get right. While the ideal partner balances you or brings skills to the table you don’t have, the most important thing to look for is alignment of values.
“Partnerships are great because you know someone has your back every step of the way. They can also be tricky because two people with an equal stake in the company have the same level of authority.”
“Starting your own business is hard work. There will be days when you question whether it was the right decision. There will be days when investors reject your plan–Pandora’s Tim Westergren was turned down 350 times, for example. During these times, would you rather have a co-founder who is willing to persevere? Or someone who is more than willing to throw in the towel”