Five Tips for Making your Cofounder Relationship Work
When Tallia and I were first toying with the idea of becoming cofounders, my grandfather told me, “It’s easier to get out of a marriage than it is to get out of a business partnership. Make sure this is the right one.” Just like in a marriage, we had no clue what was ahead of us, but we knew we would make it work. For the past four years we’ve seen ups and downs in our business, but these five things have made the journey a grand adventure.
1. Find compliments for your weaknesses
Tallia and I fit under the opposites attract stereotype. It is often said that she is the matcha green tea to my double-shot espresso, and this is about as accurate as it gets. While I’m quick to execute and have an affection for business strategy and to-do lists, Tallia is more thoughtful and does a great job of focusing on the personal connections and experiences created through our business. She is good at all the things I’m not-so-good at and vice versa. And while we are opposites, we have a few very important things in common, which brings us to our next tip.
2. Share the same mission
Tallia and I have the most important thing in common: we both want to help women work on their own terms. This makes decision making and conflict resolution incredibly easy because in every discussion we simply ask ‘Is this helping women work on their own terms or not?” This keeps our egos in check, keeps our mission in mind, and most importantly, keeps us moving forward as a team.
3. Make communication a priority
Open and honest communication is the cornerstone of a good cofounder relationship. While I haven’t always been the best at prioritizing communication, I see the endless benefits when I do. They say if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together, and this has proven true for me time and time again. Even though it is tempting to act quickly and get things done without checking it, it’s always better to stay connected and move forward as a team.
4. Focus on solutions, not problems
PSA: Things will go wrong. There will be problems. You will fail at some point.
The bright side? We’ve come to find that every single problem has a solution, even if it’s a Justin Bieber dance party in the car with Chick-Fil-A iced teas while you laugh about the fact that your clothes are inside out, your office furniture is sitting in the rain, and you just received a parking ticket because you were two minutes late to the meter.
Any time something goes wrong in our business, we present each other with possible solutions instead of problems. We find that we are able to move forward easily when one of us says ‘I’ve started researching new options for office space since it’s looking like we won’t be able to say here’ instead of ‘We have to move out of our office and that sucks.’ Stay focused on the goal and the solutions, and remember that a chicken biscuit tends to lighten the mood.
5. Build trust above all
Saving the best for last: TRUST. This is #5 on the list but #1 in my heart. At the foundation of our relationship is a belief that the other person has the best intentions in all their actions and decisions. If a mistake is made, if a task is missed, if an angry client sends an email, the default should always be, ‘there is a reason why she did this, and I bet it’s a good one.’
I’m so thankful when Tallia says that to me. When she comes to me and says ‘hey I see we didn’t update this item, and I’m sure you have a good reason for it,’ it makes me feel trusted and valued and I’m eager to rectify any problem. It immediately moves me from the defensive to offensive because it reminds me we are on the same team. So in partnership, much like in marriage, trust is essential.
Do you have a suggestion for how to make your cofounder relationship work? Share them in the comments below!