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How to Vet a Potential Co-Founder

Thinking of going into business with someone? Try traveling with them first, suggests one CEO.
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Starting a business is a long and difficult road. Of course it would be nice to walk it with the perfect partner at your side--someone to plug the holes in your knowledge, and lift your spirits when they're flagging. Someone to share the immense amount of work with.

Who wouldn't want a co-founder? But a bad business partner can be a far worse than no business partner at all, so how do you know the seemingly perfect co-founder you're thinking of starting a business with will turn our to be that essential partner and not a total nightmare?

In a recent post offering several tips on choosing the right co-founder, Bryce Maddock, CEO of TaskUs, offers a novel suggestion. How about hitting the road with this person before you sign any paperwork together? He writes:

Travel. Test your compatibility on the open road. So, you think you have chosen the right partner? Great! Now, put the new relationship to a quick test before you commit. Travel together! The longer the trip, the more you will learn about your true compatibility. However, a quick weekend camping trip can be sufficiently revealing. Going on the road will unearth true characteristics and effectively test your ability to coexist, work together, compromise and have fun with each other. If you are actually committed to growing your startup, enjoy this vacation because it’s probably your last for awhile. If traveling reveals potential issues or signs of incompatibility, you may want to reconsider before continuing forward. 

Despite going to high school together, I had spent a minimal amount of time with my partner, Jaspar Weir, before deciding to start a business with him. Fortunately, a six week backpacking trip throughout Europe helped me realize we make a great team.

Going on a getaway together is well known as the acid test of a new romantic relationship. Perhaps Maddock is on to something when he suggests that a similar dynamic plays out when potential co-founders hit the road together.

Of course this tip will be better suited to some than others. If you're a married mother of three, you're unlikely to be buying a pair of Eurorail passes with your male, 20-something potential partner, but in situations where co-founders are both in a position to travel, this might be a quick and dirty way to see how you'll really get along under the intense pressure of starting a business.

Looking for more tips on making sure your potential co-founder is a good match? Maddock has six more tips, while over on the serial entrepreneur David Lerner recently had other advice for would-be founders searching for the perfect co-founder: Stop looking!

"Stop looking for a co-founder. Stop asking people to help you find one, and stop talking and thinking this way. I say this not because it’s massively annoying and clichéd by now (which it is), but mainly because the very act of looking for a co-founder is already a sign that you are hopelessly unprepared for the coming venture—and going about things in a completely backwards way," he writes. Check out the rest of his argument here.

How can you tell if you and a potential business partner are a good match? 

 

Last updated: Apr 22, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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