A lot of startups face doom due to clashes between the co-founders - when they realize at a later stage that things are not going smoothly between them and they can’t work together any longer.
In my own experience, I have seen people taking their co-founders for granted and making them uncomfortable every step of the way. This leads to bitterness in the relationship, and ultimately to a partnership breakup. Some of you might have gone through this, and will be able to relate to this situation. For others, this article can serve as a piece of advice, and a warning as well.
Someone has rightly said that there is hardly any difference between maintaining a business partnership and a marriage as they both need a high level of commitment and keeping one’s ego in check. So, be careful in choosing the right co-founder in the first place, and control your ego if you want to successfully preserve the partnership.
Here are a few points that I want to share with you. I also request you to participate in the comments section, i.e. if you want to add anything more to this article.
In my experience, most of the people who are very committed to their startups are proud to overdo things - like working overtime, over-committing to their clients, over-imagining things, and so on. Consequently, they end up over-expecting from their co-founders as well; and this is where the real problems begin. Mark my words when I say that it’s foolish to ruin someone’s personal life just because you start comparing yourself with them. Some of the typical grudges are:
“If I can work for 16 hours a day - why can’t he?”
“If I can ignore my family due to work priorities - why can’t he stop leaving work early to take care of his family?”
If you get these thoughts about your co-founder, you need to flush them out immediately - otherwise the partnership will not sustain for long.
If you can’t respect your co-founders, and their opinions, you are probably never going to build a good team. ‘Difference of opinion’ and ’ignoring someone’s opinion by disrespecting them’ are two different things, after all.
It is needless to explain that if you hurt someone’s self-respect, it might lead to a really bad situation. Everyone has his/her highs and lows, and sometimes people need to be left alone to recover from their bad phases. You should respect their independence and priorities in life, just as much as you have yours.
When things are happening for the good everything seems cool, but when situations are not favorable you feel frustrated. It’s very important to maintain your cool and tide situations out.
Being transparent with your co-founders is absolutely important - it builds integrity, trust, and a positive attitude. No one likes convoluted facts or agendas; so, it is your moral responsibility to show them the clear picture, especially when things are not going well. Allowing them to take decisions on the basis of what they observe is also important.
Always remember that you cannot hide a secret for long, and it pinches a lot when the secrets are revealed suddenly or by someone else. By being transparent, you also overcome your internal fears and the sense of guilt that tortures you from inside.
Blaming is one of the most favourite games that startup co-founders play. When the times are not favorable, it’s quite easy to blame others for whatever is going wrong; and it’s hard to accept the blame yourself. This problem clearly arises from one’s ego, and is often the death knell of partnerships.
In such situations, self-control is the best thing that you can practice. It’s important to be calm, analyze things, and then figure out the root cause of the trouble. Even if your co-founder is responsible for a particular loss, you should make sure that you do not hurt his/her feelings in a burst of anger. Learn to convey your message in a positive and polite note.
You must have seen married couples fighting over petty things, and then making things worse by involving their friends and family. In this way small arguments become big fights; and ultimately, the relationship breaks up. In similar fashion, co-founders often tend to ruin things by involving friends and family members in their fights - when they think there is no point talking to each other any further to resolve their internal matters.
This is a disastrous approach because when other people are involved in your fights, situations often turn for the worse when a single bad suggestion is proffered and accepted.
So, be mature enough to solve such clashes yourself; without involving others. Also, if you have an existing team, try not to argue or fight in front of them as it leaves a very bad impression on them.
If your career is the most important thing to you, so it must be for your business partner - and there is nothing wrong in that. You should be considerate towards your partner’s life and career priorities. If you support your co-founder with the same zeal that you expect for yourself from others, you will win his/her trust, and eventually, they will help you grow in your life as well.
Let their career decisions be based on their own feelings. You cannot control anyone’s life anyway, and things will be fine without your trying to influence them. If they get a better career opportunity, and they don’t see a single good reason to stay with you, they will leave for sure.
It is only the goodness of your heart, and their trust in you, that can make your co-founders stay with you and your vision.
You might have the image of an iron man or iron lady for the attitude that you carry around – both in your life and business. You might have the killer instinct, or a special ability to iron out your business problems; and people may admire this quality about you. That’s really good for you – However, this will not make you a good co-founder – at least, not until you start admiring your partners for the smallest of their initiatives or good work. You need to learn how to forgive them for their mistakes; basically, forget things and move on. All great relationships in life have one thing in common - respect for others.
With the expectation that you can handle your relationship with your business partner/s well, I wish you all success in your business and life.
Now it’s your turn. If you are reading this line, you have come a long way, my friend. Please feel free to comment below if you agree, disagree or want to add anything.
About the Author:
Vineet Khurana is the Co-founder of Viprasoft. These days he is building a productivity tool for a product startup. He also writes blogs about his marketing and hacking experiences on the Edutainment4u.com site. His twitter handle is @VineetKhurana.)
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