Starting a business is not easy. One of the biggest and often over looked factors is who you start a business with. Now, l do not claim to be an expert on the subject. The jury is still out in my case. But what l do know for sure is that your co-founder can make or break your business. When you are a creative entrepreneur it’s a million times harder because let’s face it we are bit of pain in the butt to work with (me included). My partners and l have been running TV Yangu for 24 months and there are a few things l have learnt after my first attempt at starting a company crushed, burnt and left me contemplating suicide.
- Friends become the best of enemies.
They say nothing complicates friendships like money. The guy l went in do business with the first time was my friend for about 5 years…Until shit hit the fan. Don’t assume that just because you are “homies” you will be able to do business together. It doesn’t work that way. Often its because you are friends you often sweep each other’s short comings under the carpet and pretend everything is OK. But when rent needs to be paid and you need to pay the workers, “you are my home boy” tag quickly turns into you are a “scumbag” tag. Draw the line, some friends are not good business. Instinctively you know who you can trust already. The difficulty with friends also falls when you have to have the hard conversations, when someone is not pulling their weight in the venture. That could put an enormous strain on your friendship. That being said, you should always have good chemistry with you co-founder.
- If its not in writing it doesn’t exist
OK so maybe its too late for you to back down, you are already in business. Make sure everything is in writing. Who owns what, when and how? The assumption friends usually make is to say we will do everything 50/50. In an ideal world that would be perfect. But in a startup co founders often have to contribute differently for the growth of the company (money, time, expertise etc). If the contribution of each individual is not written down and appropriate reward communicated, it creates a monster down the road. You don’t want a situation where your business partner wakes up one day and claims 75% of the company. From where you freaking moron? Too late you have lost your company. Putting things on paper doesn’t mean you don’t trust each other, it just means you want to protect yourself and the relationship in the event of a problem down the road. If you don’t have a lawyer friend, l suggest you find one.
- Over communicate
Silence is an abomination in business. Never go silent on your business partner. If you are feeling a bit “uncool” about something communicate it before it becomes a big issue. Its best to have a conflict resolution mechanism in the form of a third party who has no particular interest in your business but who both of you appreciate. Communicate when there is no problem, do some scenario building and make sure you have a contingency plan for everyone of those bad scenarios that are likely to come up. Ask each other hard questions surrounding the use of money, compensation and equity all the time. Never get tired of asking questions.
- Complement each other don’t compete with each other
If you are both identical pieces of the same puzzle, one of you is going to be doing all the work. It’s better to start a business with someone who is your polar opposite than someone who is your creative twin. Two Picasso’s under one roof would never be able to go past which paint brush to use for what canvas. If you both have identical personality’s chances are when the messenger of misery knocks on your door, you will both react the same way and that will be a recipe for disaster. Ideally you want someone with skills that compliment yours. If you have identical skills l am willing to bet that you will always have fights about creative direction of your venture. Anything with two heads is a monster. If you are the creative guy in the business have a co founder whose main focus is on the sales or business development side. That way you don’t have to convene a committee every time you want to change the sales strategy or to change the type face on your branding. Complementary skills not only help spread the work they make work more enjoyable.
This article was written by Munyaradzi Dodo, 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow, Co-Founder of Tv Yangu