When we come up with that bright idea to start a business, we all consider finding a business partner– someone to share in both the joys and turmoils of entrepreneurship. Then we think a bit more, and we begin to contemplate who would be compatible, and realize it becomes a much more severe consideration to business than we previously thought.
Of course, you have so many options, so how do you choose the right co founder?
Figure out if you really want a business partner, or you’re actually looking for an employee.
On one hand, through the couple of businesses I have helped cofound, I know I could never have done it on my own, as my business partners inspire and motivate me even in the darkest of days. On the other hand, you will be likely to spend more than 9-5 with this person, as well as splitting your equity and trusting them with your vision. That is putting a lot of faith into someone else!
Don’t choose a partner based on their skills.
This may be counterintuitive, but if you’re looking to hire based on a certain skill set, such as finance or IT, you’re looking for an employee, not a partner. Find someone compatible to all your personality facets as well as your professional fortes. With Diana and I, we considered each other on these four scales:
Don’t pitch them your idea. Pitch them YOU.
Especially in the early days, your business idea will change and take on different manifestations. If you just pitch them your idea and it changes, then your business partner is left in a position likely different from where they started. However if you pitch yourself, you ensure loyalty and a more long term collaboration. “You” includes your vision and values, which should be at the unfaltering core of your company anyway.
Get into a fight with them.
If you don’t fight with them, you haven’t been working with them long enough or one of you has been disingenuous. Fights happen. But the greater test is how do you get over them. You can’t build something together if you’re breaking each other down.
So let’s say you have found an incredible business partner who complements all your qualities, how do you keep the relationship healthy and productive? Finding a cofounder is not just checking a box and moving on– it is a constant building and maintaining process, as your business will challenge both of you individually and your relationship.
Don’t be passive aggressive and don’t waste time politicking.
Entrepreneurship means moving fast, and every small conflict that you don’t air out is slowing you down. If you try to manipulate your business partner into doing what you want, this will only breed resentment on both sides. This kind of negative energy will affect everyone else in the office and be seriously counterproductive. It’s simple– just be as honest and open as possible. No one should take things personally– it’s all for the good of the business.
Maintain lives outside of each other.
Not only are you likely get on each other’s nerves when you spend so much time with each other, some of your greatest inspirations will come when you’re doing something completely unrelated. Therefore, Diana and I both have separate activities, friends and travel often to gain some insights from unlikely places.
Have mentors and outside consultants.
Not only do they have very different perspectives, they are more likely to be an impartial perspective and help mediate fights.
Remember, success can mask a lot of issues. Not matter how busy you may be, you should always be able to take the time, sit down with your cofounder and talk through any and every issue. Communication is what holds your partnership– and your business– together.
This guest post is courtesy Stephany Zoo. Stephany Zoo creates fire, not flash. Incubated at powerhouses like Ralph Lauren, Princeton, and Likeable Media, Stephany is a vigorous steward of brand, relentlessly excited about enduring imprints of image and word. A New York City transplant, Stephany seeks to bridge her bicultural heritage and achieve a greater understanding of international consumer behavior. She enthusiastically advances the customer development of BUNDSHOP.COM, leveraging digital and viral assets to disseminate BUNDSHOP. COM’s vision and voice.
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