4 Ways To Resolve Co-Founder Conflict

Startup co-founder disputes are universal. It’s just like any other close relationship–there are good moments, and there are times when you will disagree.

I would be lying if I said your relationship with your co-founder will always be easy and amicable. It’s just like any other close relationship–there are good moments, and there are times when you will disagree.

My co-founder Jade Driver and I own Crowd Surf with equal equity (50/50 split). So, it’s important that we can make mutually agreeable decisions that keep Crowd Surf operating and moving forward. We’ve had our hiccups over the past eight years, but we always figure out how to make it work. When we hit a tough spot, we keep these 4 pointers in mind.


1. Always listen

Be respectful and really listen to one another. You don’t necessarily have to agree. But it’s important to truly empathize and understand why your co-founder feels a certain way.


Photo: © s4svisuals, YFS Magazine

There were many times when I wanted to keep a project on our roster when Jade did not (and vice versa). However, after thoroughly listening to each other, we often realized one of us had a better handle on the situation. Then, we got on the same page and made a prompt decision to move forward with an option that made us both comfortable.


2. Respect strengths and know weaknesses

One of the reasons Jade and I have been able to work together for such a long period of time is that know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If a disagreement falls into one of our individual areas of expertise, we generally let that person handle the situation.

For instance, Jade is amazing at handling HR and operational issues. She takes priority when it comes to making decisions about those topics. When it comes to business development and technology decisions, I take the reins. We’re honest with each other and ourselves with regard to where we excel. This approach helps us peacefully and efficiently resolve issues.


3. Ask a qualified third party

When I say ask a third party, I don’t mean a mutual friends. The experts you hire to consult you on daily operations are generally good for this type of role. If you need to make a financial decision, bring in your business management team. If it’s contractual or new business, bring in your lawyer.


Photo: © UBER IMAGES, YFS Magazine

Also, it’s important for you and your business partner to both be on the phone, in the meeting, or on the e-mail together when you communicate with a third party about an issue. Complete transparency is key.


4. Keep the company’s best interest at heart

Never let a situation turn into an argument where both of you want to be right. Consider the best interest of the company, not the individual. If both co-founders keep this in mind, the situation will be resolved in an amicable and impactful way.

There have been times when I was personally passionate about a particular project and Jade had to bring me back down to earth.


Managing co-founder conflict

It’s inevitable that two passionate, smart and motivated entrepreneurs are going to disagree. However, one great thing we’ve found about our disputes is that we always manage to solve the problem and keep moving forward.

Co-founder disagreements are truly a blessing in disguise. They force a decision to be made and demonstrate that your company isn’t stagnant. If you’re not disagreeing that  generally means there’s nothing going on–this is detrimental for entrepreneurs.

Always look at the positive side that comes with resolving and managing co-founder conflict. When you do, you’ll feel a sense of relief and respect for your business partner.


This article has been edited.

Cassie Petrey is the co-founder of Crowd Surf, a company that provides specialized marketing services to some of the biggest names in music. Connect with @cassiepetrey on Twitter.


© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.


In this article