Co-founder breakups are painful. They’re every bit as difficult and stressful as a romantic breakup – and it’s not just the two of you who face the consequences. Read: avoid at all costs.
We know it’s difficult, and in the hustle and grind of launching a startup, it can be easy to get lost in financial and logistical everyday challenges and forget about nurturing your relationship with your partner. But cultivating and maintaining a strong partnership requires effort and commitment.
Luckily, there are a few secrets to building a strong relationship, and – because it’s our very mission to make your work life the best it could possibly be – we’re going to let you in on them. In this blog, our co-founding A team share five essential tips to achieve a yin-yang co-founder relationship.
Note: co-founder or not, these tips can also be applied to any workplace pairing you’re looking to optimise.
When we asked Tushar what he believed is the key to a good co-founder relationship, he answered immediately: trust.
“Co-founding is like getting into a long-term marriage, and that comes with its ups and downs, but if there’s a foundation of trust and mutual respect, then I think you can solve any problem.”
But how do you build a foundation of trust? It’s important to be completely open and honest with each other from day one. Speak clearly about your boundaries, your commitments, your vision, values and everything in between. Getting personal and sharing meaningful areas of your life can help forge a path for trust and respect.
You can also build trust from the very start by being clear about the different skills you have, and the different roles you play in the business. You were probably drawn to each other in the first place because you have a totally different and complementary skillset to you.
“What you don’t want with co-founders is two clones of each other. Tom and I make a good co-founding team because we’re practically opposite people. We’re opposite in how we look, how we think about the world, in what our expertise are, in how we speak, and so on. And oftentimes when people are complete opposites they can clash because it’s difficult to see the other side’s perspective. But when you add trust into the equation, you may start to believe they are right, and this can broaden your own views. This can improve the decision-making process, because you and your partner are making decisions together but from opposite perspectives.”
Having different views, ideas and areas of expertise is fundamental to a good relationship between founders. But it’s equally important to define your different roles in the business, to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. Also, giving your partner space to operate in their area of speciality, demonstrates a level of trust in their ability, which can help to improve your relationship.
Tom believes that open, regular and honest communication is the key to a good relationship between founders.
“It’s important to make sure you’re always talking, even when the conversation that needs to be had is difficult. One of the things that happens a lot, especially as your business grows, is that you become more siloed and specialised in your role, and this often leads to a communication breakdown. So, it becomes even more necessary to schedule time to check in with each other.”
No matter how busy you are, keep your co-founder informed, and keep the relationship strong.
Find out more about Tom’s journey scaling Hubble from an idea to a post Series A company, with exclusive insights into all the challenges and roadblocks in between.
Don’t take it personally
When you disagree on an issue – which will happen more often than not – try not to take it personally. Disagreement is natural and debate is healthy.
Tushar: “Because Tom and I are opposites, we never agreed on anything in the first instance, but then after speaking about it, we always end up agreeing or compromising.”
Equally, it’s important to know when to budge… flexibility and compromise are important qualities for co-founders, especially as you will have equal weigh-ins when it comes to making big decisions.
Forgive each other
This is a big one. At a fast-growing startup, there’s going to be a lot of pressure from investors to expand, get things done yesterday, and of course the huge responsibility of your team. Under mounting pressure, you’re both bound to make mistakes. So, it’s important to forgive each other and let up and laugh when times get tough.
“Remember that you’re both learning as you go, so you have to forgive each other for your “mistakes” and keep pushing each other to get better and better.” Tom Watson.
So, the secret to a good relationship between founders is out…
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