3 Deadly Sins No Startup Co-Founder Should Ever Commit!
Getting the right co-founder on board is amongst the key challenges for any entrepreneur. Looking at the present scenario in the startup ecosystem as well as historical data, there have been very few companies that were founded by just one person (family businesses are exceptions to the case).
The entire concept of having a single founder has its own drawbacks and is mostly unsustainable. Moreover, coming to the EQ part of running a startup, the journey to start out alone is extremely tough and to go through the emotional struggles of ‘what if’ is a difficult stage and cannot be battled alone most of the time. Not to forget, with a co-founder, there is always another person to validate what one thinks, hence fewer chances of going wrong. As a result, you’ll see that most new age ventures have multiple co-founders.
That said, finding people who not only share a similar passion for work, but also work on the same wavelength is of utmost importance. While the concept of having co-founders with contrasting personalities tends to work for the smooth functioning of the company, there are certain things a co-founder must keep in mind not only to avoid jeopardizing his/her relationship with other co-founders, but also avoid putting the business at risk .
Things co-founders should NEVER do
When you must have co-founders, the obvious question comes to mind – how can co-founders who may or may not belong to the same school of thought come together to build a successful startup venture.
Looking at things more specifically, there are some things no co-founder should ever do in order to ensure smooth operations and maintain a sound image of the company in the market. Here are some of them:
1. Doubting the other co-founder(s)
There are two main attributes that co-founders look for in each other – trust and passion. It is pretty elementary, without similar passion, co-founders would never be able to sustain the grind of running a startup. Moreover, without equal determination and effort from all the founders, there are bound to be differences, as a result of which the startup is expected to face adverse consequences.
If we talk about ‘trust’ (in particular), as the foundation for a healthy working relationship between co-founders, it need not mean that two (or more) people are best of friends who decide to start a venture together. They need to be able to trust each other’s skill sets; outlook towards the business idea; and the zeal to make something out of nothing.
Over the course of time, if things don’t shape up as planned, co-founders, due to tremendous pressure and a stagnant business trajectory, start doubting the idea first, which later moves on to the stage of doubting each other and their skill sets. Distrust only sows the seeds for resentment later and can prove fatal for the startup.
2. Overstepping the defined work boundaries
In a startup atmosphere, no job is big or small. Additionally, a startup brings together the best of people with diverse skill sets to give wings to an innovative product or service. Generally, co-founders come from backgrounds like coding/ programming, product design, sales & marketing etc.
People who are experienced in their particular field are given roles accordingly within a startup venture. While all co-founders might have put in an equal amount of capital into the venture, one individual might be responsible for coding and programming, whereas the other for product development and they might jointly look at sales & marketing or get in another specialized person on board for the role.
Since, roles and work boundaries are well defined from the beginning, over the course of time, one co-founder shouldn’t overstep the defined work boundary and question the skill set of the other co-founder(s). Constructive suggestions are always welcome, but trying to run the game completely or intruding into the other’s domain is something a co-founder should never do.
3. Fudging money under capital and personal expenses categories
Considering the current startup scenario, companies are working on a shoestring budget, with low margins and high costs. Also, the general break even time for any startup venture is between 3-5 years, which can prove to be challenging (monetarily) for the initial few years. Under such circumstances, co-founders should ensure that they don’t compromise on their integrity and remain honest when it comes to money matters since money is often the sole cause behind the dissolution of many businesses.
While there are many more dos and don’ts in a relationship between co-founders, in the end it has to follow the path of constructive arguments and self-correction. Every co-founder has to be open to an objective review of his performance from other co-founders, seek their suggestions, apply his domain expertise and then determine the corrective path. The understanding between the co-founders makes the backbone of the checks and balances system, which is so crucial to the success of a new venture.
Many budding entrepreneurs feel that friends/ acquaintances becoming co-founders is the ideal situation. However, this is not true. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that every co-founder adjudges his/her peers thoroughly on all grounds before agreeing to join hands because any differences later will not only damage the personal relationship between them but could also spell doom for the startup.
About the Author: Suresh Kabra is Founder of PriceMap, an online platform that connects store owners to potential shoppers who are actively searching for a product on-line with a clear intent to buy