Going into business for yourself doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Sometimes we need to take on a partner or co-founder to get our business venture off the ground. But picking the right co-founder is key. Partnering with the wrong person could defeat your purpose–and cause your business to fail. Taking a leap of faith and starting a business with a co-founder can be daunting, says Bryan Clayton CEO of GreenPal, known as Uber for lawn care. Clayton took on three co-founders when he started his company three years ago. Fortunately, Clayton was successful in his selection of co-founders, as you should be. He adds, It’s almost like choosing who you’re going to marry although it’s actually easier to get a divorce from your spouse than it is to unwind a business partnership.
So how do you find the right person? Here are some tips from entrepreneurs who have partnered with co-founders:
–Character first. When selecting a co-founder it’s important to optimize for the character of the individual over their technical abilities, says Clayton.
–Do your personalities vibe? Is this someone you genuinely like? You’re going to be in the trenches with this person for a minimum of four to five years and it needs to be somebody you actually enjoy spending time with or else you’re doomed to failure from the start, notes Clayton.
–Less alike you might be best. Don’t get a co-founder with the same skillset as you. Don’t get a co-founder with the same educational background. Find someone who covers all of your weaknesses and has none of your strengths, said Stephen R. Foster, CEO and co-founder of Multi-Dimensional Game, who had two co-founders and had to divorce one of them. He adds, My bad co-founder and I had too much in common. We both had PhDs in computer science, so we wasted time arguing about technical details. My awesome co-founder knows more about HR and marketing that I could ever know–so I don’t argue with her about that domain. And she doesn’t argue with me about technical details. I couldn’t be happier.
–Is the potential co-founder open to feedback? If they are somebody that is typically not open to feedback and doesn’t want to listen to outside opinions, then do not walk away; run away. So much of figuring out what works in a startup is going back-and-forth between you and your co-founder and the both of you need to be open to feedback to swap ideas and bounce them off of each other to forge your way through the darkness of figuring out how to build something that works, advises Clayton.
–What are their motives? Is this person driven by getting rich? If your potential co-founder is motivated solely by getting rich then odds are they will burn out after the first year or two when going through the slog of building a startup, Clayton points out. You will want to co-found your company with somebody that first believes in the same vision and shares the same passion as you do before a person solely wanting to accumulate wealth.