It’s More Of A Marriage
Why working with your Co-Founder takes communication, clarity & happiness, by Ben Gateley.
Rob and I are now into our eleventh year working together (longer than most marriages last in the UK) and while it hasn’t always been plain sailing, I am so proud of the relationship we have. This blog isn’t solely inspired by me feeling soppy on a Thursday morning, but in fact driven by the notion that if you can’t make your Co-Founder relationship work, it’s unlikely you’ll make your business work.
It’s my belief that a great Co-Founder relationship is built on honest communication, clarity of roles and being happy. Here’s why…
Say It Like It Is
“Entrepreneurs” are typically great communicators, but I think where we sometimes struggle is having really honest and open conversations, both with ourselves and also with our business partners. It’s so easy to believe the hype, to read the blogs, to go to the networking events and believe that you and your business are unstoppable, and while that confidence can be great in some contexts, it makes it much harder to open up and talk when things aren’t going so well.
The openness of communication shouldn’t be limited to having raw conversations about the business, but more importantly, where you are with it all: how you’re feeling and what you’re enjoying/not. It’s impossible to support a Co-Founder if you don’t know what they’re thinking or how they’re feeling.
Don’t just think it…. SAY it!
Role Docs are for Everyone!
We all obsess over ensuring our team are clear on their areas of responsibility and their deliverables: we’ve got role docs coming out of our ears… But why do we stop when it comes to us?
Role docs are for everyone and they’re probably the most valuable tool in ensuring that Co-Founders divide and conquer, rather than trying to team up on everything. I just don’t believe that Co-CEO’s perform better than drawing distinct lines. You’re able to move faster, be more agile, and focus on both the now and the future.
Happy as Larry
Dividing up and allocating business areas is an important step in ensuring that you’re working effectively, but I believe there is one other fact that you need to consider when writing out your role doc: what makes you happy?
I’m not moving through life chasing after some elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I’m emulating Larry as much as I can; I focus on enjoying the journey and ensuring that I’m doing things that make me genuinely happy. It’s my view that your happiness and the enjoyment that you get out of whatever you are doing has much more to do with “how you do it” and not “what you’re doing”.
For me, I know the four elements that control how much I’m enjoying the journey are:
- I need to see the team we work with achieving great things.
- I need to feel like I’m working closely with my Co-Founders, even though we’re dividing responsibilities.
- I need to feel as though I can be a support to the team & play a role in their development.
- I need to be learning new things at least 20–30% of the time.
None of those things are complex, but they’re incredibly important to me, so every 3 months I rate myself out of 10 on each element. October’s average is 7/10, so there’s still some work to do.
The final twist to this story is that when we decided to launch CharlieHR, we knew we wanted to do it this time with a third Co-Founder. Enter stage-left Tom Carrington-Smith, someone Rob and I have been lucky enough to have worked with over the past 5 years on previous businesses and someone we value and trust immensely.
If you think getting the relationship right between two is hard however… Three is harder! We put a big emphasis on frequently evaluating the ways in which we work together and make sure our communication is open and honest, we’re clear on our specific roles, and that, most importantly, we’re helping each other with a driving passion to enjoy the ride.