Founder vs. Co-founder: Here are the Questions to Ask Before Making Your Decision
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Starting a business is one of the toughest things many of us will do in our lives. While some choose to do it alone, others decide to find a co-founder (or several). There are a few questions you should ask yourself if you’re deciding whether or not to bring in a co-founder to help you execute your vision.
Can you hold yourself accountable?
Every new startup hits a point, or several, where it doesn’t seem like it’s going to work, and it’s easy to convince yourself that there is no way forward. Having a partner keeps you accountable — because now business failure doesn’t just affect you, it also affects the people you convinced to invest their time and money into the vision.
It’s similar to a relationship with a personal trainer. You’ve shared your fitness goals with them, and they’ve held you accountable, even when you were exhausted. Quitting would mean facing the embarrassment of telling your trainer that you’re giving up. The small discomfort of quitting is what pushes people to reach their fitness goals, and it works the same way with entrepreneurship.
How are you compensating for your weaknesses?
We all have weaknesses and that’s why the best co-founder teams have complementary personalities and skillsets. If you’re an engineer, having a co-founder who specializes in business or marketing could be exactly what you need to get the product off the ground. If you’re a visionary having someone who is more execution-minded will be key to accomplishing any of your big ideas.
“When you’re running an early-stage startup even the things you’re really good at are difficult because you’ve gone from working for someone else on a team to doing everything yourself,” the co-founder and CEO of Tatum Digital, Mike K. Tatum, said.
He insists that he wouldn’t be able to run his business without his co-founder and wife, Elana Jefferson-Tatum.
“Our partnership has been the key to our success so far and we compliment each other in a really impactful way that makes our team ten times stronger than we are individually,” Mike said.
Who is doing the work?
Any early-stage entrepreneur can tell you there are always a hundred things you could and should be doing, but you’re limited by time when it’s just you. Having the ability to spread the workload between two people or more can be huge in terms of your ability to scale quickly and take advantage of opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to go after because you’re stretched too thin. There are two ways to overcome this, you can hire a team early or share the workload among a founding team.
Youmie Jean Francois started Flex-N-Fly as the sole founder and chose to hire a team to manage the workload.
“I think I have a strong team of people currently working for me. Although at times I wished I could have had someone to share the responsibility, I’m not willing to share the vision” Francois said.
On the other hand at Tatum Digital, Mike is free to focus on creating content, business development, and the technical side of the platform while his co-founder handles finance, design, and all the other business needs.
The debate on whether you should find a co-founder or do it alone depends on a few different factors; like your desire to have complete control over the vision, whether or not you need a complementary skillset to get to your minimum viable product, and if collaboration is something that you feel makes you better or holds you back.