If you’re going to have co-founders or partners in your new business, be completely honest with yourself whether you have the “right” team. Your leadership group is critical to the success of a new business. It can be a make or break decision that can impact the future success of the company.
I’ve known businesspeople who’ve connected with potential partners and in a short space of time entered into binding agreements without taking the necessary steps to see if they were compatible. Deciding who joins your team cannot be based solely on a person’s talent, connections, and access to capital. This carelessness by start-up owners often leads to conflict, bad feelings, lawsuits and cripples their business from moving forward.
You can’t underestimate the importance of knowing the character of the people you’ll be working with closely for years to come. My wife has a fitting Caribbean saying: “Come see me and come live with me are two different things”. In other words, the person you socialize with on a friendship or family basis may not be the same person once they’re working with you on a daily basis.
Over the past few decades, I’ve watched friendships disappear and family members stop communicating after they went into business together. Every owner needs to know the pressures of a new business will bring out the best and the worst in people, including themselves. Understand at some point you will have to deal with people’s attitudes and emotions and it can get messy.
When considering who to bring into your inner circle it is critical to look at more than just a person’s capabilities. It’s helpful to identify their values, motivations, and how they’re wired emotionally. It pays to do a little digging into these relationships before you go further.
Below is a brief list of questions you should ask before bringing new associates into your inner circle:
a. Is everyone super competitive or collaborative? I’ve been part of start-ups where business partners were so competitive with each other it hindered the company’s ability to operate.
b. Do you want a work/life balance or are you consumed by the business? Years ago, I was on the executive team of a start-up organization that was completely consumed by the work. I eventually addressed this issue with the team and set up a healthy work/life balance solution so we didn’t burn out.
c. Can you and your partners give up the desire to be right all the time for the sake of the company? It’s important to know if your partners can work for the greater good of the business. If not, then be prepared that people’s egos are going to get in the way at some point.
d. Are you willing to discuss in advance how you will deal with high-pressure situations? Try to dialogue up front about how you will all deal with adversity and resolve conflict. Trust me this will be time well spent.
Try your best to bring the ideal team around you. Typically, they will have strengths in areas you don’t. For instance, if you are weak in finances, find a financial expert to help. If you aren’t a great planner, strategist or marketer, find partners with those skills and bring them onto your team.
You won’t find perfect partners, co-founders, or executive members, but by adopting a more intentional approach to the process you can avoid some of the common pitfalls.