So many startups fail because their co-founders don’t get along. You see it happen all the time. Partners disagree, don’t see eye to eye, egos get in the way. You name it. It happens between co-founders who came together just for the venture, it happens to best friends collaborating on a joint idea, it happens to family members after years of planning. I’ve seen it all. Hell, it happened to me and I really should have known better.
But there are ways to mitigate risks. And these things not only help but also can save your business and your professional relationships. Here are the things that you should consider.
Choose the right partner
It is so natural to want to work with people who think and act just like us. But sometimes your natural instinct isn’t the right one. If the people around us are so much like us, we tend to miss new personal qualities that could contribute to our brand. We tend to miss new approaches or ways of conducting business that could benefit the company. And, most importantly, we tend to miss new minds that could strengthen our team. What we need is a partner who can challenge us, who bring a different perspective, and who complement our deficiencies with their skills.
Date before you marry
It’s really hard to tell whether you’ll get along with your partner and whether each of you can effectively contribute to the venture in the way that you each expect. You need to spend some time working together, get to know one another, disagree, argue, fight, and then make up…just like marriage. So, give the professional relationship some time. Let the partnership evolve naturally and only then, after few weeks or even months of collaboration, formalize it. This virtue is especially relevant for new partners or co-founders coming aboard an existing team.
Make sure you both have the same expectations for the relationship
Do you share the same vision for the future of the company as your co-founders? Do each of your end gains converge? Talk about it. Talk about it now. Even if you don’t completely agree (and you probably won’t) on a single direction, it is better to have your respective intended journeys out in the open. Just like any good marriage, you can only work through the disagreements if you actually talk about them first.
Sign a Prenup!
Luckily, I now have a very smart and experienced partner who taught me not to jump into any venture before signing a founders’ agreement. The agreement ensures that if your partnership ever reaches an end, you will have a good approach to parting ways. Of course, you never enter a relationship expecting that things will go wrong, but the reality is that sometimes they do and it’s really no one’s fault. Having an agreement in place will save a lot of unnecessary blame and pain. Trust me on this one.
So, is co-founding a startup like building a marriage? I don't know. But what I do know is that there are ways to improve the chances of a successful startup partnership. Don’t ignore them, or you and your partner could end up separated. And in the meantime, enjoy the ride!