How to keep a cofounder and your core team — Startup 101.
It’s my sixth year running a company with my core team. I have learned a thing or two about keeping a team together. The most difficult thing about running a business is managing people — you can always pivot a business idea or change your execution strategy — you can’t get it right twice with the team. Many of the startups die not because they lack good ideas but they lack great teams to execute the ideas. So, what have I learned overtime on keeping your cofounder and the core team?
Control Your Ego
Special appearances, accolades, media mentions, fancy dinners, and punditry opportunities might make you feel you are “the person” and nobody can tell you nothing. It can easily make you forget about your “Sidemen” and the hustle you put in together to build what you have now. There is nothing wrong to be visible, sometimes it’s good for business. As the VCP rule says, you have to be visible to attain credibility, and eventually being able to create leads and generate profit. But what happens when your visibility changes you? It’s like cancer it’s slowly pushing away those who matter and attract new experts in your life. Always be the original you if you want to keep your team together.
Accept Your Mistakes
Don’t always try to be correct — be quick to accept your mistakes and try to fix things. Don’t use your position to hide your weaknesses. Admit when you are wrong and provide a strategy to fix it. When you can’t, ask for help. It’s okay and healthy, people need to feel they have a role to play in your decision-making process. If you are always right, why do you need your cofounder on the table? Learn to listen empathetically. Don’t listen to respond, or to look smart, or to challenge their thinking, or to show your in charge — listen to understand and challenge only when is necessary to challenge. If it something that makes sense then adopt it.
It’s not only you who is sacrificing to build the company. Your cofounder is also putting in a lot of shifts to make sure you realize your dream. And always remember, the biggest sacrifice he has made is to believe in your vision and help you to achieve it. Sometimes you will take that for granted because people praise you for what you have achieved. It’s common for people to appreciate the beauty of the house and ignore the work of the foundation stone. You should always respect the foundation stone knowing the consequences of ignoring it. We lose people most of the time because we don’t understand what they are going through. Put yourself in their shoes.
Grow With Them
Don’t be okay to be the most successful one. Always try to reduce that socioeconomic gap between you and your cofounder. Nobody likes to be nobody. When you decide to pay yourself better then make sure they are also getting a raise. Occasionally, keep quiet and let them receive the praise, let them run the show. Let them feel they are part of something great and they are growing with it. Great people don’t stay in a place for too long if they are not growing — if they don’t feel needed. Whatever plans you have for your personal growth, they have plans too. Occasionally, reflect on those plans and see how they align with your core mission. They need to see the light at the end of the tunnel the way you do.
You might want to read the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott — Caring Personally and Challenge Directly — If you have a cofounder who says yes to everything you say, and he is okay to always be a nobody — you might need to find another one because both of you won’t grow. You need to create a culture of honesty and radical respectful feedback to each other. This is extremely important for the sake of your relationship and for your business. Most business relationships collapse because people don’t talk or speak their minds. Push for feedback from your cofounder no matter how hard is to get it. And, be open to receive a negative one.
Have that intense feeling of deep affection towards them. Don’t act, real affection. If you love someone you will always care and respect. That care and respect are what bind the team together. It is what makes your cofounder stay loyal to you. Go beyond the office setup to understand their families and their needs. They are not robots, they are human beings. They have priorities too and sometimes they need to choose between the business and the family. It’s a tough choice for everyone, make it easy for them. People care about you and your business when you care about them.
Learn and practice people skills. We are coming from different social-cultural backgrounds. Balance — don’t expect everyone to have your values or your ways of doing things. Learn their ways and let them learn your ways of doing things. Do this very quickly — before it starts to affect both of you. Let them live their lives as long as it doesn’t affect your or your businesses. At the end of the day, who is perfect anyway?
I hope this will add value to the relationship you have with your cofounder and core team. This is my personal opinion and feeling about how business relationships should work. They should be based on absolutely honesty and pure love.