When you start a business, one of the most important decisions you have to make is whether to work with a co-founder or go it alone.
While some founders may prefer to roll solo, often investors, advisors and mentors suggest teaming up with others, as it eases the burden of running a company. Yet, deciding on the founding team, can mean the difference between success and failure. The right combination of personalities and ideas can send a company soaring, while the wrong mix can spell disaster before it even gets off the ground.
The decision to co-found a business may be a big one, but for us, it wasn't difficult. When we launched our cloud-service marketplace AppDirect, four years ago, there was no question in our minds that we would take this journey as a team. We had been friends for years and had always talked about starting a business together. When we both were living in the startup ecosystem of San Francicso, we thought it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make those discussions a reality.
Since then, we've grown from two guys brainstorming in an apartment to a staff of more than 100 people overseeing technology that reaches millions around the world.
If you are thinking of launching a company with a partner, here are five principles that helped us build a strong co-founder team:
1. Assume positive intent. Most founders are incredibly busy, and we can't always be in the same room at the same time. This often makes day-to-day decision-making a challenge, which is why we always make sure we operate under the assumption that we have each other's best interests -- and the interests of the company -- in mind. When issues arise, this enables us to focus on problem solving, not playing the blame game.
Related: How to Find the Perfect Co-Founder
2. Determine areas of accountability, and stick with them. New businesses need to be nimble and move fast, and getting consensus for every little decision will slow you down. That's why it's critical to determine what founder is responsible for which areas of the business and honor these boundaries. By doing so, you'll respect your co-founder's decisions and won't step on his or her toes. That said, it's okay to shift responsibilities as needs change.
3. Align your values, not just your vision. Many founders talk about the importance of shared vision and strategies. We agree these are essential, but in our experience, aligning your core values is even more critical.
At AppDirect, we have five core values, one being humility. As co-founders, we live this every day by always listening to each other before offering our own opinions. If we have disagreements, we approach them with solutions, not complaints.
4. Make time for communication and transparency. It may be challenging but communication is essential for co-founder teams. In our roles, we always make time to share our thoughts and be honest about what's on our minds. We set up performance reviews once per quarter where we share feedback on what we're doing well and where we need to improve.
If you're too busy and can't find time during working hours, try to make time outside of the office.
5. Celebrate wins together. Starting a business has many ups and downs. So remember to celebrate your victories -- even if they seem minor in the long run -- and stay focused on your joint vision. Acknowledge the downs and move past them by staying focused on the end result. For co-founders, "don't sweat the small stuff" is great advice.
Clearly, we believe building a great business hinges on having a
great co-founder, and we are both better for having been a part
of a team. Over the years we've learned launching a startup can
be an incredible ride, and it's much better to bring someone
along to enjoy it.
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