If you’re considering finding a co-founder to help you start your business, you already know that you’re not making an easy decision. People have, after all, compared business partnerships to marriage, and everybody knows marriages take work. Still, there’s no denying that co-founders and partners can be a vital part of a healthy business strategy. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right co-founder.
Ideally, each partner brings something different to the table. One partner might have 15 years in the industry while the other partner might have a great deal of marketing talent. Overlapping strengths can become a point of contention between co-founders. They can also rob your business of the vital expertise that it needs to survive. Find someone who knows things you don’t know and figure out how to partner with that person. Find someone who compliments your strengths.
You believe in buying fair trade, your partner believes in buying cheap. You believe in serving only fresh, local food, your partner believes that it’s better to import food. Your partner wants the latest and greatest technology; you’re content to use 5-year-old PCs. These sorts of conflicts aren’t just about how things are done. These are conflicts that touch on the very heart of the brand and identity of the businesses they describe.
Craft a vision statement for your business, and make it meaningful in concrete terms. Find a partner who shares that vision. Then, whenever conflicts come up you can go back to the central question: “Does this course of action fit with our vision, or not?” Ideally, both of you should be excited about the direction your company is headed in.
You need to find a co-founder who you can talk to -even when you don’t agree. You can’t afford to let conflicts and resentments fester. You also can’t afford a scenario where both partners aren’t aware of what’s going on in the business. You both should feel comfortable expressing your opinions. You both need to feel like you’re in an open, respectful relationship. Only then will your partnership-and the business you are building-flourish.
A big part of going into business with a co-founder is developing an exit strategy. You don’t want a partner who is going to be offended by the thought that you don’t want to stay with him forever and ever. This is especially true if you are using the partnership as a springboard into 100% ownership of your own business or location, or if you’ve got visions of selling your share of the business in the future in order to turn a profit.
Watch how your potential co-founder treats other people. If your potential partner is willing to cheat other people, lie to them, or treat them disrespectfully then he’s willing to do the same to you. Furthermore, misbehavior on your partner’s part may tarnish your own business reputation. In the business world, your reputation and your integrity are worth far more than the checks you’re capable of writing. If you and your co-founder are going to build a successful business you want someone who shares your values.