You have your brilliant business idea, a well thought out plan and you are working on launching soon. But something is missing, you need a co-founder. So how do you choose a co-founder for your business? Selecting a co-founder has often been compared to marriage and picking your spouse and in this case, the business is your baby. You need someone that you can trust and who is equally interested in the success of the business. Here are some attributes to look out for when selecting a co-founder.
People usually draw towards other people that are similar to them. But when you're looking to select a co-founder, you need to find just the right amount of similarity. There should be a balance in your skills, strengths and weaknesses. You should look for someone whose strengths balance our your weaknesses, and vice versa. This makes it easier to define your roles and functions in the business because you're doing working based on your capabilities and expertise. This also ensures that expectations are clearly established and you can hold each other accountable.
If you're more of an introverted person who is more interested in the operations of the business than meeting with people, it's better to look for someone who is more extroverted and can raise money, secure partnerships and so on. Another benefit of choosing someone who complements you is that it challenges the both of you to think through any problems you face in the business, ultimately making your business stronger. It is important to note that while different skills and temperaments are usually advantageous, you and your potential co-founder should have similar values and ethics.
You should choose your co-founder based on their vision and understanding of your idea and the reason for your company. He/she must be as motivated as you are so as to be able to handle the challenges you will eventually face while running the business. You and your co-founder should have the same central vision for the business you're starting. You must look at the same direction and have the same values for your company growth. Having different visions and directions for the company will result in confused employees, a business with little or no growth and a structure that will crumble in no time. On every decision, your life and business philosophies should be aligned as this will ensure that you will remain united on the company’s values and direction.
Go with Who you know
It's easy to pick your friend or spouse when you're deciding on who to pick as a co-founder. This may be a good idea because it's usually best to work with someone you've known for a while and whom you've collaborated with before. This makes it easier to build trust, which is very fundamental in any partnership. Choose someone that you have already worked with or schooled with, someone who you've seen in action. Once you're familiar with someone, you know their personality, values, skills and temperament and it's easier to make a choice. Creating a business with someone is (ideally) a long term relationship so you need to know your partner well before you make the decision. As much as it may be good to go with who you know, you shouldn't just assume that your best friend will be a great co-founder. The question you should ask yourself is "who is the best suited to develop this idea with me?"
Be Open Minded
As businesses grow, a lot of things could change and the company may not look like the original idea. As a founder, you must be open-minded to possible changes that work better than your original idea. This could be hard for some people because they are emotionally attached to their ideas. You need to pick someone who is not too stubborn to listen to feedback. If you pick someone who is not open minded, you will have a difficult time building a long-lasting company.
When selecting a co-founder, it can be tempting to pick someone whose background you're impressed with - where he went to school, where she worked before and so on. But, it is better to go with someone with experience and not just accolades. Check out their track record. What they have achieved. You should go with someone who is proven to be hard working, dependable and efficient in what he or she does.
After all is said and done, it is important that you actually like your co-founder and enjoy working with him/her. The simplest test of your co-founding relationship is if you get along with the other person or not. It's a very bad sign if you argue about everything and can't seem to get along. As co-founders, you will work long hours together, spend a lot of time in each other's company and have to keep each other motivated. This is next to impossible if you don't like each other. You should spend time together doing non work related activities to see how well you flow together. Mutual respect, trust, and appreciation for each other are essential factors to consider. All the other great qualities your co-founder possesses will not be sufficient to hold your business in the long run if you don't like each other.
It is important that you set up agreements, discuss roles and responsibilities, and put everything in writing. Following the marriage analogy, you don't want to pick someone you're not sure will last in the "marriage" and end up getting a "divorce". You should take your time when choosing your co-founder because it is a huge step that could make or break your startup.