“Do you think I need a co-founder?” Amy asked.
Most of the time, I agree 100% with Marty. And I agree with most of the advice he gives in this particular post. It’s just the first recommendation I struggled with. Find a co-founder who can keep you balanced.
I get Marty’s point, that two people working part-time can launch a business more quickly than one person working part-time. True. Complimentary skills and keeping each other motivated are also things you get with a co-founder. Got it.
But launching a business with a co-founder is a significant strategic consideration, one that shouldn’t be relegated to a bulletized to-do list. A co-founder will, alongside the entrepreneur, shape the transformation of the business idea into a revenue-generating enterprise. A co-founder’s influence on the venture can be just as profound as the entrepreneur’s.
4 Things to Consider Before Bringing In a Co-founder/Partner
1. You can’t just hire a co-founder. If you knew someone who had the same passion, drive, and hunger for your startup idea, she would already be working with you. This isn’t a position you can simply fill. And anyone who doesn’t equal your fervor and enthusiasm isn’t a partner—she’s an employee.
2. Entrepreneurs often don’t play well with others. They are “take charge” people who function best when in control. They often enjoy working alone. The entrepreneur is the leader in the execution of her vision. For her to successfully launch her business with a co-founder, she has to be willing to relinquish some control over that vision. That can be next to impossible for some.
3. The burdens of launching a business can strain even the closest relationship. Who would you trust to be your co-founder, your spouse? Your sister? Your best friend? Who will be the boss, the ultimate decision maker? Your business will need one person calling the shots; your co-founder might not like that situation. (I’ve written about starting a business with your spouse in this post.)
4. Co-founders will want a piece of the pie. Anyone who is willing to take on the work, risk, and responsibility of being a co-founder is going want compensation. For a start-up, that usually means a percentage of the business. This will impact not only the entrepreneur’s share of net income but liability and taxes as well. The entrepreneur has to weigh this additional layer of complexity to her business model against any potential benefit the co-founder brings.
I’m not saying a co-founder is necessarily a bad idea. But a co-founder isn’t for everyone. I’ve had several business partners, one who was effectively my co-founder. That relationship did not survive (see my Full Disclosure page). Of the business partners that I’ve had, the relationship with my current partner is by far the best, but I wouldn’t have started the company with him, and he wouldn’t have left his job to help me launch my business.
Back to Amy. After we talked things through, she agreed she didn’t actually need a co-founder. She’s still in the thinking/planning phase of her startup adventure, and this business is very much her baby, not to be shared. I don’t think she’d ever find someone who is as passionate about her idea as she is anyway, and that’s a good thing, because I think she’s going to be terrific as a small business owner.
I’d love to hear co-founder stories, both good and bad.