What is the number one trait you look for in a co-founder when looking to establish a successful business partnership?
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. YEC has also launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Complementary Skills
Often when starting a business, it’s just you and your co-founder for a while. It’s important to make sure that you can cover as many bases as possible between the both of you and also that there isn’t a power struggle in the future over specific roles or titles. For example, if you’re an introvert that enjoys operations, you may want an extroverted partner that is good at pitching and networking.
A partnership is like a marriage — you need someone you can bounce ideas of off and be honest with. Communication, self-awareness and trading feedback promote adaptability. This allows you to mitigate problems quickly, while still maintaining a healthy culture for growth.
3. Ability to Keep Their Ego in Check
It’s wonderful when you can get together with another person to start something you believe can make a real difference. They may even have the skills, connections and capital to make it all happen, but their ego can still destroy it all. A great founder needs to be able to objectively look at themselves and their role in the company as it starts, grows and evolves over time to be able to adapt.
4. Skill as a Collaborator
Many people are wonderful visionaries and leaders, but still start to tilt when they have to share a command chain with another person. A partner has to be someone who operates well in a space where they are sharing power and making compromises. Before you sign on with an otherwise really talented partner, test out their teamwork skills.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs are impatient. They hear about founders who are “overnight successes” and expect the same for themselves. And when the business fails to meet its revenue goals, they quickly find their exit opportunity. I recommend that business owners only partner with co-founders who are practical and patient. Most success stories take time; everyone should understand that.
I want to work with someone who isn’t going to let me down when things aren’t going the way they want. They must be committed to the startup and determined. Too many co-founders change when there are changes within the startup. Test them to see if they align with your values and start slow. You don’t need to go all in with them right away.
7. Communication Compatibility
You know how there are some people who, no matter what you say or how you say it, they just don’t get you? While other people just get you with little effort? When it comes to choosing a co-founder, I like to look for people where the communication is effortless. We’re going to run into so many challenges as a business that communication should not be one of them.
When choosing a co-founder, I like to look at their completed projects to get a better understanding of their follow-through. Do they get really excited about a new project and bail when they get bored? Or will they stay and be a team player? Most businesses fail when partnerships fall apart, so it’s important to select a partner with the tenacity to finish what they start.
Passion about your industry or business is a crucial trait to look for. The person has to have a love for what they do, and live and breathe it each and every day in order for your partnership to be successful.
10. Mutual Vision and Values
Search for a co-founder whose visions and values align with yours. You may occasionally clash during your partnership, but ultimately, you know you’re working for the same goal. Mutual visions and values build the foundation for trust, which is vital for a successful business partnership.
11. Good Personality Fit
It is tempting to focus on complementary skills when choosing a co-founder and these certainly are important — however, what is even more important is their personality and if it is a good fit for yours. Remember, you are likely going to be working closely and intimately with this person upward of 40 hours per week, and if you don’t get along as friends, then expect everything else to be difficult.
When seeking out a co-founder, it is important to try to find someone who compliments you and who you enjoy working with, but it is imperative to find someone who you deeply trust. Without trust, a business partnership is not workable. If and when trust breaks down, the breakdown of the partnership is destined to follow.
When it comes to a co-founder, I want someone who is as curious as I am about how to make this idea a success. With curiosity comes ideas, drive and passion.
14. Track Record
The most important thing is to gauge the person’s experiences in life and business to see if they are a fit to be a co-founder. You don’t want someone riding your coat tails, or to be partnered with someone you need to babysit. This person needs to bring 50 percent of the firepower every single day and the only way to prove they can do that is if they’ve done it before.