Mike Stephenson, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Vancouver, is co-founder and CEO of addy, which uses the principles of crowdfunding to make real estate investing accessible to everyone, including Black, indigenous, people of color, LGBTQ2S+ and other underrepresented groups. We asked Mike about the benefits of having a long-lasting, monogamous co-founder. Here's what he shared.

Ultimatums can mean the end of a relationship, but I remember one that sparked a new beginning--and this isn't a breakup story.

After 12 years in business together, I wanted to start a new venture in the Philippines. I was up-front: Working remotely wasn't an option. My co-founder, Stephen, was either coming with me--or we were splitting up. 

To some, this might seem dramatic. But Stephen and I were accustomed to candid conversations. We went to the same high school, carpooled to college, and cut our teeth as entrepreneurs together--we've been told we fight like brothers. At that moment, it felt like we might be on the precipice of a breakup. 

Entrepreneurship can be lonely. Your romantic partner and colleagues don't share the burden of running your business--so when you have anxieties or need to vent, it can feel like there's no one to talk to. Add a pandemic, political unrest, and extreme weather events--and perhaps it's never been more important to have a steady hand to navigate work life with. 

Whether you're starting a new business or looking for a colleague to grow with professionally, here are three things to look for in a monogamous work partner.

Look for someone you can have challenging conversations with

There's a saying: never marry someone you wouldn't want to divorce. In my experience, the same is true with a business partner. Breakup conversations can be beneficial--as I discovered after I dropped my ultimatum.

From the start, my co-founder and I agreed we wouldn't make big decisions or even respond to propositions until we've really heard what the other person is saying. It takes practice to hear the truth without getting defensive or reactive, but there's nothing more important. 

When I told Stephen my idea for the Philippines, he didn't say yes right away. He talked with his wife, who was on maternity leave with a newborn and their 2-year-old. They took time to process and decide together. Letting the decision marinate worked: A few weeks later, we all moved overseas.

Sometimes we joke, "Who'd get the kids in the divorce?" But beyond the jokes, putting a shareholders' agreement in place is crucial. Many small business partners don't and eventually find themselves in a tricky situation. 

If Stephen hadn't agreed to move, I know splitting up would have been a respectful process. Every business experiences ebbs and flows. Knowing you can have a candid conversation and walk away if necessary is vital to a healthy partnership. 

Find a partner who delivers where you can't 

Even before I met Stephen, I heard about his incredible knack for sales. As someone who's more comfortable in the background, recognizing his strengths were my weaknesses (and vice versa) helped make our partnership mutually beneficial. 

It's empowering to realize you don't have to be good at everything because you have someone who's great at what you don't enjoy. It allows us both to lean into our strong suits. 

When we first started, Stephen was more front-of-house, and I was more back-of-house, focusing on things like research and development and product. Now, as CEO, I'm accountable for the vision and ensuring we're true to our company's values and mission.

Find somebody who recognizes and values your strengths but who can also see parts of the puzzle that don't come naturally to you. Gartner research shows leaders who take a complementary approach perform better personally and lead teams that perform 60 percent better than others. 

If your values don't align personally, you won't get far professionally 

Although our differences make us complementary leaders, we're even stronger because of what we have in common: our values. 

Many of the core values Stephen and I share are courtesy of our parents, who had similar approaches to raising their kids. They valued and prioritized education and were intentional about which school we attended. Our school motto was ingrained in us: Semper Fidelis--always faithful. 

Our values are helpful anchors, grounding us in what's important and reminding us of who we are and why we run our business.

We also share another important trait--we're intrinsically motivated by our company mission. Our business is helping Black, indigenous, people of color, LGBTQ2S+ and other underrepresented groups participate in real estate investment. That shared passion fuels our work.

There's nothing more fulfilling than helping an employee immigrate to Canada, or knowing your company has helped give a colleague the security to make a significant life decision like having a baby or getting married. 

For all the highs, however, leading a company has its share of lows. It's a lot less lonely knowing there's someone steering the operation with me. When you find the right co-founder, it's like driving the best car with the windows down, and your favorite playlist cranked: Without your ride-or-die beside you, the reward is just not as good.