Conflicts with your cofounder(s) are a given. Just because you founded a company together doesn’t mean you will always be agreeing on the same path forward. Therefore, making sure that your company runs smoothly from the top level is a responsibility every founder has. However, passion, ambition, and sometimes impatience will lead to a clash. Everyone wants to do well as soon as possible.
However, keeping disagreements to a minimum does have its benefits. It helps empower constructive criticism, productivity benefits, accountability blooms, and in some cases, it also reduces incompetency.
Every start up has its own way of functioning. That being said, there are a few basic tips and tricks that may be relevant to most places. Here are some of them that will help you avoid conflict with your cofounders in the first place.
First, you want to make sure things don’t get too personal. If you’re young, hot headed, or know your cofounder extremely well, this may become difficult. Using your cofounder’s mistakes or past against them will not help prove you right in an argument. More often than not it just leads to more arguments and can breed contempt between cofounders. This limits communication and productivity. It’s also not a morale booster to your employees to see your cofounders enraged at one another. And when things get personal, you can see the rage clearly. Make sure that you draw a line in the sand between your business and your private life. When you’re a start-up, much of your private life is invested into your business. But don’t let that trap you when in an argument with your cofounder. Throwing details they’ve shared with you about their personal life will only make them angrier and make things less professional. Do not take the issues they bring up lightly, trivializing something that matters to them will only lead to future conflict.
Second, trust is key. If you can’t trust your cofounder, then don’t work with them in the first place. You need to believe and have faith in your business partners if you want to limit conflict with them. Make sure you know that they have the best interest of the company at heart. They need to be just as passionate and committed to your start-up as you are. This will help bridge the divide between many arguments. Because at the end of the day you’ll realise that they’re just trying to do what they think is best for the company. And it’ll be hard to fault them on that. Build your relationship with your cofounders, get to know them more. Make sure you understand what incentivizes them and motivates them. This helps create the ground for constructive criticism rather than blatant conflict.
Third, even when you fight, make sure to come to terms quickly. Having issues with your cofounder will only hurt the business. It limits communication, growth, and any form of productivity. It also hurts your employees who then notice the tension between the cofounders. And once that happens, you risk losing employees who are concerned about their job security and the future of the company. You also have to remember that starting up a business is hard work. The stress can get to you. But it’s a long way to the top and you’re going to need your cofounders to help you get through it. That’s one of the reasons you decided to start a business with them in the first place.
Lastly, don’t judge them for making a mistake. It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how people learn. But judging your cofounder and attributing blame to them for making a genuine mistake will only seek to create a divide between you. If you sincerely trust your cofounders then avoid jumping to conclusions and hear their side of the story first. Many ventures fail because cofounders begin to doubt one another’s abilities or have misunderstandings that could easily have been solved with a small conversation. Sometimes you need to see the effect of their actions ripple out, or wait for more information to come to light. At the end of the day, always have your cofounders back. Don’t give up on them.