What are the invisible factors influencing my cofounder partnership?

A strong partnership is the foundation of many successful businesses. For that reason, it is of utmost importance that you consider all of the factors that may be influencing your partnership; especially those you’re not immediately aware of. These factors could make or break your venture, and they can lay dormant for years before making themselves known. Be prepared, and address the hidden aspects that may influence your business, before they take you by surprise!

Personal life influences

An entrepreneur does not exist in a vacuum, and nor should they be expected to. That means that you and your cofounder will be affected by the happenings of your personal life. Personal health, family responsibilities and obligations, or an aging/sick relative are all some of the factors that will affect you and your cofounders well-being, as well as your ability to manage business responsibilities and influence your availability. It is wise to address those possibilities once you partner with someone and come up with a plan of action in case one of you is out of commission for a while. Pay special attention to likely changes, for example, if you know you’ll be the assigned caregiver once your parents need assistance, make sure your business partner knows about this.

Generational Differences

Generational differences are a factor that could be glaringly obvious from the start, but should still be respected as powerful influencers when building a partnership. Your generation will not only affect your relationship with technology, but also your values, your habits, and even your communication style. The way you speak to your generational peers might not fly with someone much older, or younger, than you, for example. If your partner is from the same generation as you, you might find it easier to communicate, agree on strategies more readily, and have similar values. But if you’re partnered with someone from a different generation, you will benefit from diverse viewpoints, heterogeneity in ideas and problem-solving, as well as benefit from generational knowledge and experience other than your own.

Past Business Experiences

Do you have a past business failure under your belt? How about your cofounder? A failed business might be a bad omen to some, and a good experience for others. No matter how you see it, you still must treat the experience as a factor to be considered when in a partnership. Someone with a past business failure might be more cautious, more risk-averse, and less willing to create a disruptive business than your average new entrepreneur. Yet, they might also bring more valuable hands-on experience and know-how into the business. It is important to communicate about those reservations when forming a partnership so that you can assess decisions from multiple standpoints: is the fear of failure driving the decision instead of the desire to succeed?

Business Mentality

What is a business mentality? Business mentalities determine whether you expect to be treated like you’re working in a “Big Corp” (a more traditional approach with strict roles and individualism), as an employee (a focus on security, personal benefits and being paid) or as an entrepreneur (embrace risk and uncertainty, or wear multiple hats). Understanding what mentality you and your business partner have will help you understand both your expectations and desires when it comes to the business. You must align your expectations about what kind of concessions you’ll have to make as entrepreneurs, and what benefits might be forthcoming so that you and your cofounder are on the same page.

Political, Religious, and Personal Beliefs

Considering political, religious and personal beliefs will be crucial when forming a cofounder partnership. Try to do this before you sign on the dotted line, as getting disagreements out of the way and setting work and life boundaries can save your partnership from potential conflict. Consider the beliefs you feel strongly about, that you might be willing to argue with someone over, and tell your business partner about them. Consider what your boundaries are as well. What is a belief that you’re not willing to condone or represent? Remember, you might “agree to disagree” now, but your business partner will be representing your business as well. Are you willing to partner with someone with their beliefs?

Life Stages and Commitments

What is your cofounder’s life stage, and how will that affect their life going forward? Consider your own too, and think about what your life will look like in 1, 2, 5 and 10 years. Will you start a family and have your priorities shift? Will you want to retire in the coming years? Will you need a stable venture to buy a house and settle down? These are all factors you must consider when you’re partnering with a cofounder, as they will affect your partnership moving forward. You don’t have to be in the same life stage to have a successful partnership, as long as you create plans and processes for when changes do happen.

Substance Use and Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Substance use and abuse are unfortunately quite common for entrepreneurs, as the heightened stress can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Having a conversation about addictions and proclivities might be uncomfortable, but it might help to set expectations and boundaries early on so you can help keep each other accountable. It is helpful to create a mental health plan for the founding team and build a platform for open, honest and vulnerable communication.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the factors you must consider before partnering with a cofounder, but it’s a healthy start. The list may grow based on your situation, so keep an eye on the factors that might crop up when you’re in the ideation phase of your partnership—don’t sweep anything under the rug as it might come back to bite you later.

The Cofounder's

An A-Z guide for those in, or searching for, a business partnership.

The Cofounder’s Handbook provides insight, practical advice, and proven tips from actual real-world cofounders on how to build and maintain a rewarding partnership.

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