Having my shit together really isn’t my forte.
I’m dangerously unorganised, quite reckless with money, and my understanding of technology is similar to my understanding of the laws of thermodynamics. But I’m good at other things. Kind of. The problem is tough, having only 50% of the required skill set to make something fly makes it pretty hard to get off the ground.
So thats where a co-founder comes in.
Having somebody to look after all of the things you’re weak at, or to manage the finer details you lament over because they’re just not what you’re into, is a major step towards getting this thing through the stratosphere.
And of course, there are few elements that can make a company more fun, innovative, successful and smooth running than a great co-founder. However, make the wrong decision and you’ll be stuck with an apathetic or lazy burden that’ll just be a drain on your resources and time.
So lets not understate the gravity of this choice. It’s a major decision. It needs to be well thought out and given due deliberation. And when making this decision, ask yourself these 6 simple questions. If the answer is negative to any of them, move on.
‘Does this person share my vision?’
This is a big one. Quite possibly the big one.
Vision is a word thats thrown around a lot by wannabe visionaries wearing round glasses pretending to be Steve Jobs. And yes, I’m fully aware it’s a topic thats been covered in pretty much every Business for Dummies manual ever written. But there’s a reason for that — its important. Infinitely so. Our co-founder(s) have to be on our wavelength. If they don’t share our long-term goals, our intuition on when to zag when everybody else is zigging, and if they just don’t get the overall bigger picture of why we’re trying to achieve, then it’s a miss match.
‘Do our values align?’
Character is key.
Our vales have to overlap. Ideas evolve, vision expands, and market dynamics morph with trends. But character and the moral principles that we uphold ourselves to are generally vested in the life experiences that have shaped us as conscious beings. Unless something truly dramatic and life changing happens, you can be pretty sure that the self assigned principles that guide a persons moral integrity will remain by and large the same — which makes achieving the afore mentioned vision simply a matter of prudence and the application of skill. If your values contrast quite starkly then life becomes much harder. Objectives become ambiguous, vision diverges, and you’ll suddenly find yourself fighting separate battles on different fronts.
Teams win because they have a common objective shaped by shared values.
‘Can I trust this person?’
Errors are easily reparable. Lies are not
If you’re not the creative side of this merging of minds then you probably can’t trust your co-founder to turn up on time. Ever.
And when they do turn up you probably can’t even trust them to be wearing matching shoes. But none of this stuff matters. We all know creatives can be a little scatty and fragmented. It’s these bizarre idiosyncrasies and alternative methodology of interpreting their environment that allows them to see things differently to normal people. Thats why they’re head of marketing and not finance. But regardless of our co-founders role within the company, we should always be able to trust them unconditionally.
Its vital for the integrity of our collective vision, and being able to rely on them to deliver where we can’t.
If we can place this trust in someone, even when they mess up, we’ll be able to fix it.
‘Are they as committed to this as I am?’
Your co-founder should be equally as driven as you are. Your venture shouldn’t be somebody else’s side project. If its your life, then it needs to be theirs, too. After all, it seems somewhat nonsensical to have a co-founder when the level of input and collaboration are heavily one-sided. If your co-founder seems more interested in the instant gratification of short term success and finical reward, then keep on looking. You know you’ll end up lumped with all of the labour when the honeymoon period wears off. Being excited is not the same as being committed. Make sure you can tell the difference between the two.
‘What do they bring to the party that I don’t?’
Your co-founder should possess a skill set that compliments your own.
If you’re highly creative but useless at most practical elements of life then you’ll need to look for somebody that brings everything you’re missing to the table. Its pointless having two creative genius paired together when neither of them know how to actualise any of the ingenious ideas they’re having. Together, you and your co-founder should be the complete package. An overlap in skill set is great, but if you’re missing integral parts of the mechanism that’ll make your company tick life is going to be a whole lot harder than having the spiritual yin to your yang.
‘Does their perspective illuminate my own?’
Diversity of perspectives leads to a better team performance. An eclectic mix of backgrounds, ethnicity, age and genders creates a heathy contrast and range of opinion. Look for a co-founder that see’s the world from a different perspective than yourself. If you’re a rationalist that specialises in the how and the nitty-gritty details look for an illogical idealist thats more interested in the why and the bigger picture.
The contrast of your ways of approaching a problem and general worldview will amalgamate leading to solutions you otherwise will have been unable to arrive at.
Side note: Don’t settle. Compromise isn’t an option. These ideas are your life’s work and your legacy. If it doesn’t seem right then it probably isn’t. Keep on looking.