If you thought finding a co-founder was hard, just wait until you try starting and running a company with one. The pressure cooker of entrepreneurship can strain even the tightest bonds between co-founders. So what do you do when the (nearly) inevitable happens and conflict develops between you and your business partner?
Unreasonable Institute has wisdom to offer. The social entrepreneurship academy recently crowdsourced advice for those facing this common but vexing problem from its community of founders, coming up with a handful of useful tips for the great many entrepreneurs who find themselves in this unpleasant situation. Here are a few:
1. Don't fight in front of employees or investors.
"Avoid fighting in front of either your employees or your investors. This isn't because you're trying to hide something from them; it's because they can't do anything useful to resolve the conflict, making their involvement a distraction to them and you. If you can't resolve the issue on your own, find a third party who all the people involved trust. This person should have the ability to remain objective and act as a referee to make sure that the process is followed. Do not force this person to be the judge; it's unfair to abdicate your responsibilities as founders to someone else. Their role is to facilitate, not to decide."
2. Be clear and clean about your differences.
'Be clear 's pretty straightforward advice, but Gayle Karen Young, former CTCO Wikimedia Foundation, offers more details about the second half of her top tip: "Clean means getting the history and positioning out on the table and eliminating as many subversive dynamics as possible because those poison the broader conversation with investors and employees. Then having the conversation with employees and investors becomes a matter of integrity and transparency, and a good design of how and when and what outcomes are desired actually becomes possible."
Like other founders, she also strongly supports gettin a neutral third-party involved if things get heated. "Like couples in a marriage going through a tough spot, mediation can be a significant asset," she says.
3. Never make it personal.
Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of ColorJar and Priceline.com, offers this essential rule for dealing with founder conflict: Never make it personal.
"Instead, always make the discussion entirely about business objectives. Present a list of things the business needs to achieve to succeed. Simply state that these things aren't getting accomplished, and the business needs to find people who will achieve those objectives. People can always argue about your opinion of another person, or your ability to get along, but completing business goals and tasks is much more black and white and makes it obvious when someone on the team doesn't belong there anymore," he elaborates.