Co-founders and partners: when quarreling is good and useful

Original author: Steve Blank
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imageEvery business has a team. However, in small business there are no rules or methodology on how to work with it. Especially in a startup where there are no clear job descriptions, when it comes only to the shares of the business, which may develop.
We decided to deal with this. We bring to your attention a free translation of an article from Steve Blank's blog.

I am often asked about how to look for a person who is similar to your views on business in order to jointly found a startup. In answering, I usually give a list of personality traits that I always look for in the “co-founder”. Also, I attach great importance to the ability to work in a team and to match one of the three main archetypes - a hacker / businessman / creator. However, Jessica Alter , Founder and CEO of FounderDating, argues that co-founders are not always people who do business next to each other. She said that I miss one key point that significantly affects the success and cohesion of a startup team. This parameter is how the co-founders quarrel with each other. I asked her to decipher her thought, and this is what happened:

I work a lot on the issue of the co-founders working in a bunch - too much! And, of course, they often ask me how to choose the perfect “co-founder” - a true friend and partner who will help create a business from scratch ?!

Usually, I begin to list a list of important qualities: complementary skills, a similar vision, the understanding that you cannot force anyone to “fall in love” with your idea (simply because the idea will change - and what then?). There are many more qualities, and all of them are certainly important. However, a few weeks ago, after a panel discussion on the co-founders of Startup2Startup, a small conversation took place at dinner, the participants of which delved into the topic. Garry Tan (Posterous, YC), who has great life and business experience, said the phrase: “If successful, you can close your eyes to a lot.”

At that moment, something “clicked” in my head: after all, in fact, the main thing that you should pay attention to when searching for a co-founder and partner is how you will “quarrel” .

This aspect is important for many reasons, the first of which is that if you have time for disputes and conflicts, it means that you work a lot in conjunction for their occurrence. Quick advice for those who think that finding a real partner is a trifling matter: change your mood, otherwise you will find a subordinate, not a “co-contributor” to your future business.

Before you understand who you can work with, you (and now there will be a simple truth) just need to WORK together! This may be a minor project, development during StartupWeekend, hackathon, or full-time work for several months. No matter how you do it, you have to create something together. And it doesn’t matter whether a finished high-quality product is obtained from this, the point is not this, but to understand in which areas your professional “interests” intersect, which can provoke a conflict in the process of joint work.

Do not be fooled: the absence of conflict does not mean the right choice - extend the “trial period”!

Understand what “real startup life” is. Over a long period of time (much longer than you plan), you will encounter many problems that you must solve TOGETHER. Even if your project is going uphill, the indicators are growing rapidly and progress is obvious, you can’t avoid a lot of everyday difficulties that you must overcome in tandem. This fact, as well as the moment of return of money approaching every second, will heat up the situation, and, consequently, will provide rich ground for disagreement.

If you don’t even have a bit of an understanding of what lies ahead, this means that you are not only prepared for difficulties, but also that the real situation can be shocking for you.

We come to a common denominator - you will certainly quarrel. In essence, this does not mean anything. This is great and speaks of a healthy, working atmosphere. Let's look at HOW your “battles” go. Rapidly developing, immediately "go out" or stretch? Do you quickly forget everything and can you move on right away? After all, the swiftness of movement is the basis of the start-up: if your conflict dragged on, it only means wasted time for the project and team members who feel uncomfortable.

Ask yourself: have we come out of the conflict quickly and with dignity and respect? It is important.

Finally, the very essence of the conflict is important. Your disputes concern the location and color of the “Register” button or the question of attracting investments?

Many people choose the methods of selecting a partner to compare complementary qualifications, and believe that the whole question exhausts itself, and the problem is not worthless. Undoubtedly, suitable competencies are great, especially when your conflicts are in a “functional” area. So, too many of your skills intersect, and the resolution of the conflict should not go hard.

It is much more difficult when disagreements concern questions such as: “Why did we decide to found a company?”, “What should this company be like?”, “How will we work?”, “What are our values? And the priorities? ”Etc. It doesn’t matter whether you perceive your business as a “whole life business” or your ultimate goal is to go public IPO, whether you check mail after 19.00, etc. - all these are personal decisions for everyone. Just make sure that your views on fundamental issues are in line with the views of your potential partner.

In conclusion: I do not propose to intentionally provoke conflicts. In any relationship, there are successful and unsuccessful periods, the only question is how quickly they move from one state to another. Draw conclusions from any conflict and make sober, informed decisions.

Note:By the way, a similar approach is taken in sports management, for example, Arsene Wenger : if for a week there is not a single conflict or a fight in a team, then something is wrong with the team spirit.

Do you have useful conflicts? Any examples you can share?

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