How to Choose the Right Co-Founder for Your Startup

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Choosing the right co-founder for your business is one of the most important decisions you will make. You will be tied to this person for years to come, through the good and the bad, so you need to make sure it’s someone you can work with well. With hard decisions to discuss which could make or break the startup, this partnership has to be well thought through before you pick your co-founder.
How to Choose the Right Co-Founder for Your Startup

Whether or not you have a large group to choose from, there are some key considerations you need to take in before selecting a partner. Read on for what you need to think about before whitling your list down to one. If you fail to do this, then you could risk partnering with someone who doesn’t share your values, leading to a breakdown in communication with disastrous results for your startup.

Make Sure They Match Your Values

When hiring employees, this consideration is vital. Forgetting it when looking for a partner is detrimental as this person will be of great importance to your business. When you start looking for a co-founder for your startup, you will already have your own set of defined and stable core values you are unwilling to budge on. These values will shape your priorities, goals and decision making in the creation, development of your startup and for the years to come.

Do you want a flexible work-life balance or do you think of business 24/7? Hiring someone who is the complete opposite of you can lead you to become frustrated with their lack of work or intimidating and overbearing work energy. If you’re competitive, is a co-founder someone you really need? You will need to find someone who is as competitive as you but willing to work as a team rather than battling against each other. When asking the other person what their values are, avoid taking on those who list ‘integrity’ or ‘honesty’ as they are cliche. Everyone should have these when building a new business, and you will want more creative answers from potential partners that reflect their nature more accurately.

Once you know what your values are, and any potential partners, you need to consider the values you or the other person are willing to give up. If they want a more flexible work life, but you think deadlines are important, are they willing to work late hours and change plans for the job? Or maybe you like your privacy, but as a partner, they want more transparency in your work. Having an open and honest conversation can bring up any values you are or aren’t willing to sacrifice.

Discuss How You Will Overcome Disputes

Building your own business will not be easy, and there will be times when you can come into conflict with your partner. Whether it is an issue with cash, clients or employees, it can, and at some point will put a strain on your relationship. Discussing how you handle disputes before you pick your partner can make tough times like these easier down the line. Establishing a strategy early on makes getting through these situations calmer and quicker, making more time for improvement to the relationship and business.

Rather than wasting time and risking damaging the relationship, discussing these topics now helps establish a strong bond that can survive anything. A great business partnership shouldn’t be based on how much success you achieve but rather the lows you endure as a team. A business can be successful for years, but then one conflict can break a partnership and bring it down without the proper conversations and trust. Make sure you pick a co-founder who is willing to work through any issues without creating long-lasting conflict and damage to the company.

Have Skill Sets that Compliment Each Other

Don’t look for a partner who has every skill under their belt and all the experience you think you could dream of. They might claim they know every aspect of your type of business, but in fact, they only possess little knowledge of each sector. You want someone who excels in one area and can confidently work to improve the business from that front. If this skill set is something you don’t possess, then it’s even better. Your partner’s skills should complement your own so that together you create one whole. While you might be creative, your potential partner could be good with analytics. They can assess the business through a different mindset and tackle the areas of the company you might never have seen as weak.

By having complementary skills you also never second guess each other and cause suspicion and conflict in your relationship. If you have two people who both think they know the most about a particular area, they will always question what the other person does. Over time, this can cause partners to argue over everything and lead to a breakdown in the business. If you are an ‘expert’ in one area and your partner in another, you can trust what they do and give them the freedom to do their work without disruption.

Do You Trust Them?

It’s always good to trust your gut when making important decisions, including looking for a co-founder for your business. It’s said all the time – every great relationship is built on the foundation of trust. If you don’t trust that the person you are partnering with has the best intentions for you and the business in mind, then you shouldn’t even consider them. Trust can’t be had from the start, as it takes time to build up, which can be exceptionally long for startups. You might not be able to get the best idea of how much you trust them from the get-go, but an indication through interviews and conversations is necessary.

When you start developing your business, raising money and appointing key job roles, you have trust that whoever is handling this aspect of the company is doing so correctly. Are they hiring the right people? Are they getting money from the correct sources? Any decision they make can affect your personal life. If they source resources from the wrong places or hire people unable to properly carry out their job you can lose respectability and money as a business. You have to trust that whoever you choose to be your partner not only has their own interest at heart but yours too. Business partners who can’t operate under pressure and don’t hold trust for one another can expect to fail quickly.

by Mahshid Javaheri

Mahshid Javaheri

After working as a solicitor for 3 years, Mahshid joined as an Editor and contributor of legal content. Mahshid is passionate about connecting practicing lawyer with the wider business community; she helps lawyers create and distribute insightful and actionable legal content that delivers value to businesses, whilst showcasing the lawyers’ expertise.

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