Nine years ago, a few friends who worked together and liked talking e-commerce decided to start a company. That “wolf pack” of four people turned into a company of 250, with more than $40 million in revenue and offices on three continents.
While cleverbridge has had a successful run, it has not been without bumps and bruises. It’s part of the package that comes with forming and running a company with partners. You don’t have to accept unforeseen disagreements, however, if you ensure that you and your partners have discussed some philosophical items in advance.
Here are some things to think about when seeking partners/co-founders:
How do you hire?
Do you prefer to hire ahead of the curve or wait for employees to be underwater? Hire too early, and you could be arguing about finances. Hire too late and you might be arguing about employee morale.
I’m generally on the side of hiring early because I want employees to be as fully trained as possible before taking on their full-time responsibilities. Without proper training, new employees are forced to sink or swim quickly and may still lack the full vision of the horizon.
How do you think about spending money?
If you spend $5,000 on furniture to create a better work environment and your partner is the frugal type, you’ll be seeking a marriage counselor very soon.
As a bootstrapped company, we spent our first few years being very frugal to ensure the company’s survival. As success was more secure, we loosened the purse strings.
What is the goal?
If one partner wants to “pump and dump” and the other one is in their dream job, what’s the target? Or do you just put time on the calendar every month for this argument?
We’ve been together for nine years, and I can attribute a lot of our stability to alignment and lack of outside pressures (i.e., investors).
Are you willing to adapt?
If someone is unable to admit that they are wrong about a little thing, how would you approach and get results when the person may not be the right person for the job? Someone who is good at starting companies and hustling might be a bad fit for a more structured, slow and larger (successful) organization.
We have tackled this by bringing in more experienced people to manage a lot of the day-to-day details, which augments our weaknesses.
What is the person’s management style?
Micromanager? Control freak? Delegator? We all say that we hate micromanagers, but they seem to know what’s going on. A delegator is often viewed as “disconnected” from the details.
Think that putting two of these people together will be like ebony and ivory? Think again! Communication both in advance and through regular mechanisms should minimize this risk. Frankly, communication is part of the answer to all of these risks!
Knowing what your own answers are to these questions will help you recognize what problems can arise with the co-founder(s) you select.