Working beside a co-founder or partner from the start increases the odds of succeed as an entrepreneur. With a partner, you have a second set of eyes and skills to help push the start-up forward.
The problem is building a lasting partnership. One of the more common causes of start-up failure involves co-founder dispute, a dispute made personal if the partner you chose was a friend beforehand. Not only is your start-up at risk, but your friendship as well. It’s in your best interest to build a strong partnership from the start.
Work with Someone You’ve Worked with Before
It’s tempting to look through founder dating sites and events for a partner. That’s their purpose, and it saves you a lot of trouble. The problem is being an entrepreneur is inherently difficult enough without having to deal with a completely new personality. Their skillsets may be invaluable, but you’re taking a huge risk by working with someone you’ve never worked with before. All their skills will essentially be worthless if the two of you don’t synergize.
Working with someone whom you have experience with takes a lot of risk off the table and doesn’t require a period of adjustment. At the very least don’t just pick someone off a list. Have them vetted first.
Make Sure They’re Clear on Your Goals
The problem many entrepreneurs face with a partner is the risk of working towards different goals. A house divided cannot stand so you should do what it takes to make sure you’re both on the same page. It’s easier to trust your partner and give them more autonomy if you believe you have the same vision.
Getting them to the same page isn’t something you can do in a day. It’ll take time and a lot of discussion, but it is well worth the effort. You should also discuss their goals and views and see if you can put things together. The discussion should also include how company culture should be formed and relationship dynamics. Write down your agreement and making part of your contract.
Divide Roles Early
If there’s anything that’ll waste your partnership, it’s responsibility overlap. If both of you are doing the same job, why even have a partner? The power of partners lies in their different viewpoint and skillset. Take advantage of that by making sure that whoever you choose can fill a different role on the team or is willing to learn how to do so.
Make sure you’re both comfortable with how the roles are divided. Each of you should have final say over what goes on in each of your domains. Doing this early will save you both a lot of time and energy, by both avoiding the dance in figuring out who has authority and letting you focus on solely on your tasks.
Bring in a Support Team
Living up to your plans is harder than it sounds. Fortunately, you and your partner don’t have to do it alone. You can bring in a third party made up of your advisors and mentors. They will keep you accountable and help you settle potential disputes. You don’t have to necessarily bring in mentors – you just have to bring in people who you respect enough to listen to if the need arises.
This has other benefits as well. This support team can serve as a source of advice and social capital. Having you and your partner’s reputations is one thing. Having a team of highly respected individuals helping your start-up is quite another.
Make a Co-Founder Agreement
A partnership, like a marriage, doesn’t always have a happy ending. There may come a time when you have to separate, either due to the start-up’s failure or because the union isn’t working out. This is where co-founder agreements enter the picture.
It’s difficult to discuss anything related to failure, but it’s necessary. Doing this assures both you and your partner than the end of the partnership will be as fair as possible to both parties. It should cover everything from ownership, decision-making, as well as how deadlock situations are resolved.
With a partner, your path as an entrepreneur is significantly easier. You have another set of eyes and another set of skills looking out for your start-up. A partner is also someone you can commiserate with, someone who knows exactly what you’re going through because they’re in the same boat. Choose them carefully.