I wouldn’t be where I am today without my co-founder.
I found my co-founder John Rampton by reaching out on Twitter and asking for his advice. The relationship grew into a friendship and then into a business partnership. We ran a company called Pixloo that sold for eight-figures. Today, we own Hostt, a Palo Alto, California-based technology company that provides free web hosting to business owners.
In my experience, there are qualities co-founders must have in order to ensure a right fit for the role. Before you form a partnership, here is what to look for in your potential co-founder:
1. Team player
Find a team player who is willing to take the lead. In contrast, your co-founder should also know when to roll up their sleeves. Great leaders know they are only as good as their team. They also understand it pays to hangout with smart people. Let your team put their strengths and individual traits to work.
2. Mutual motivator
You should feel motivated after talking with your potential co-founder. If not, they are not the right fit. For example, my co-founder fanned the flames of my motivation and pursuit. There will be startup challenges — the honeymoon period will end — but the impact co-founders on each other can serve as the necessary spark to reignite passion and move forward. Ask yourself: Will this person be able to take the reins, help you shift focus, or simply offer encouragement?
3. Conflict resolver
A great co-founder must be okay with arguments, disagreements and a dash of conflict. This helps to create a company culture that encourages growth through change. For example, I can have heated business discussions and maintain the utmost respect for my co-founder. We never make it personal because that would drive a wedge between us.
Co-founders should fight fair and hammer out issues. They should be comfortable speaking up when they sense a problem. And offer a constructive resolution in the process.
Starting a business is a huge investment. You don’t want to lose it because you chose a partner who’s dishonest. I previously worked with my co-founder on other projects and knew him through a shared network of colleagues. We trust each other to carry out our business responsibilities. We both have the company’s best interest in mind.
I’m driven to get what I want. I work like a maniac. So, naturally, I wanted a co-founder who understood this and worked in a similar way. You don’t want someone who just cheers from the sidelines, but instead they should move at a similar pace.
According to Steven Le Vine there’s a difference between a driven founder and an excited one. Le Vine explains: “All too often, one founder thinks that because his partner is excited about the new business venture, he is also going to do a good job in the future. But the excitement usually is a result of the ‘honeymoon period,’ and once it wears off, if he is not committed to building the business and seeing it through[. And then] the other partner tends to be the one driving the company while the other sits back and enjoys the fruits of his labor.”
A potential co-founder must know themselves and communicate their character, feelings, motives, and desires. Co-founders should be able to comfortably talk about their strengths and weaknesses. Vulnerability helps to develop mutual trust.
Like any great relationship, a co-founders should continue to evolve as they face new challenges and opportunities. That willingness to continue to improve, keep lines of communication open, and stay focused on goals will maximize the benefit of having a business partner rather than going at it alone. A strong foundation is the framework for success.
This article has been edited.
Peter Daisyme is a special adviser to Due, an invoicing company helping small business owners transact money online.