Owning a business 50/50 isn’t possible if you and your co-founder won’t listen to each other
I would be lying if I said that your relationship with your co-founder will always be easy and amicable. It’s just like any other close relationship you have in your life: there are good moments, and there are times where you are going to disagree.
My co-founder Jade Driver and I own Crowd Surf at an even 50/50 split, so it’s important that we can make decisions that both of us are happy with, and that keep Crowd Surf operating and moving forward. We’ve had our hiccups over the past eight years, but have always figured out how to make it work by keeping these pointers in mind.
1. Always listen. When working with your co-founder, it’s important to make sure that both of you are respectful and really listen to one and other. You don’t necessarily have to agree, but it’s important to truly empathise and understand why your co-founder feels that way. Once you all have both heard each other out, move forward with the best route for making a decision. There have been many times when I wanted to keep a project on our roster when Jade did not (and vice versa). However, after thoroughly listening to each other, we often realise that one of us has a better handle on how that client is helping or hurting our company. We then get on the same page and make a prompt decision to move forward with an option that we both feel comfortable with.
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2. Respect each other’s strengths, and know your own weaknesses. One of the reasons Jade and I have been able to work together for such a long period of time is that know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If we know that our disagreement falls more into one of our individual areas of expertise, we generally let that person handle the situation and resolve the problem. Jade is really amazing at handling our company’s HR and operations issues, for instance, so she takes priority when it comes to making decisions about those topics. When it comes to decisions regarding business development and technology, I take the reins. We’re honest with each other and ourselves with regard to where we excel, and this helps us peacefully and efficiently resolve issues.
3. Ask a third party. When I say ask a third party, I don’t mean one of your mutual friends. The experts you hire to consult you on the daily operations of your business are generally good for this type of role. If it’s a financial decision, bring in your business management team. If it’s about a contract or potential new client, bring in your lawyer. When you bring in a third party for their opinion on a disagreement, it’s important for you and your business partner to both be on the phone, meeting, or e-mail together while speaking to the third party about the issue. Complete transparency is key, and it’s important that the third party is equally hearing both sides of the argument. Make sure that all of the parties involved are playing fair and are working quickly towards resolving a problem.
4. Keep the company’s best interest at heart. It’s important that the disagreement doesn’t turn into a situation where both of you are trying to be right. The goal always has to be doing what’s in the best interest of the company, not what’s in the best interest of the individual. If both co-founders keep this in mind, the situation will get resolved in an amicable and impactful way. There have been times when I was personally passionate about a particular project and Jade had to bring me back down to earth to show me that I needed to be supporting the best interest of the company.
It’s inevitable that two passionate, smart and motivated business people are going to get into arguments. However, the one great thing we’ve found about our disputes is that we always manage to solve the problem, and it keeps our company moving forward. Disagreements are truly a blessing in disguise, as they force a decision to be made. They demonstrate that your company isn’t stagnant, and that in itself is something we’ve always been grateful for. No disagreements generally means there’s nothing going on, and that’s detrimental for entrepreneurs. Always look at the positives of resolving and moving past an agreement, and you’ll feel a sense of relief and respect for your business partner.
Cassie Petrey is the co-founder of Crowd Surf, a company that provides specialised marketing services to some of the biggest names in music.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
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