5 essential tips for highly successful cofounders

Everywhere, couples fight and end up apart, but not as often as start-up cofounders. Research by Noam Wasserman has put that debate to rest: 65% of startups fail due to cofounders’ conflict.

image people used to illustrate the story (Thomas Barwick | Getty Images)

But I am aware of an e-commerce platform which, almost 10 years after opening their shop to the Nigerian public, both founders still share a table in the same boardroom, tee off on the same golf course, and freely exchange banters on the stare case.

Wondering what makes this partnership tick? Here’s what we can learn, and critical steps you need to take to make your partnership strong and sold.

  • Choose your partner wisely

Choosing a business partner for your startup is like getting married to a spouse. You are up against the wall if you decide to walk down the aisle with the wrong spouse. When the tempest gets in the way, it exposes the very fabric of your life. The same is true of business partnerships. You don’t necessarily have to share the same hobbies or support the same football club. But it’s best when you share common values.

  • Ambition is good but the shared vision is better

Running a startup in Africa is hard. It’s even harder building an enterprise with the wrong business partners. It’s like swallowing coals of fire in Hell. First, ensure you both share the same vision for the company and are committed to making it work. Having a partner who can’t see the big picture the way you do spell trouble for your company’s future. He will be hell-bent on profit-sharing while you are thinking re-investment.

  • It’s not all about you

Too much focus on your contribution can result in an unnecessary scuffle. You could be turning in the smartest ideas or have a sharper eye for opportunities. A crisis occurs when a founder feels he contributes more value and smarter ideas than his partner. Each party must realise that cofounding is not a contest; it’s a partnership. Where there’s a lack of this understanding, a fight is inevitable.

  • Communicate effectively

Like every other relationship, communication is the glue that holds a partnership together. Be open to share every relevant information and don’t keep things to yourself. The more founders are abreast of developments, the better for organisational leadership and strategic outlook.

  • Leverage on your strengths

Cofounding is a team effort, not a contest. A start-up is more likely to succeed when cofounders leverage their strengths to grow the company – rather than overlapping expertise. One partner may be better at initiating winning strategies, another may be better suited for operations.

The opinion piece is contributed by Kunle Lawore, Principal Consultant at OLC Consulting, a leading Management Consulting firm based in Lagos.


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