The foundation of a start-up is arguably the most important part, the business has nothing without founders. So of course, having multiple founders is preferred when starting a business, but jumping in head first and accepting the first person who agrees to try a co-founder relationship is crazy and a huge mistake, at least without making sure you’re both on the same page first. Question these elements of your potential new partner:
Respect – What are their key achievements? You need to be impressed with your cofounder, don’t believe you’re much better than them, and if you are thinking this, why?
Capabilities – What can you do? Learn their best qualities, what they’re best at, hope they can cover the areas you are lacking in.
Experience – How long have you been an entrepreneur? Starting a successful business with someone completely new to being a founder is a red flag.
Weaknesses – What are your weakest areas? Again, you want to complement each other’s abilities, but someone with too many answers to this question either lacks confidence in their abilities, or is simply not suitable for this position. You want a cofounder for their strengths.
Work Ethic – What are your ideal working hours? If both parties aren’t committing the same time, one partner will become run down and overwhelmed, and your business will suffer for it. You may not even be able to work the same hours anyways, discuss priorities.
Trust – How can I trust you? You need to be able to share responsibility without having to worry. How far would you share secrets? Can you trust them to have your back when needed?
Offenses – Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence? A basic interview question, but also necessary to know. Decide upon their answer whether you can still trust this person.
Conflicts – Are you involved in any business that would conflict with our own? Avoid any unnecessary problems.
Honesty – What would you do in the Prisoner’s Dilemma? Honesty is a trait that an entire character can be built upon. Some people are too honest, but you need someone who will tell you everything outright.
Recovery – Tell me about a time you messed up, and how you solved it? You need someone that can handle pressure, recover from mistakes, and learn from them.
Flexibility – Are you stuck in this area? What if you need to move location for your business? Are they prepared to do so?
Exit strategy – Are you setting up to sell, or is this a lifetime opportunity? Either answer is fine, as long as it matches yours.
Pricing – What would you price our product at? Get a rough ball on how well their perception of money is. Avoid an argument over profits.
Publicity – Are you okay being interviewed? Some people crack under public spotlight, especially by press. Do you need to do all the talking?
Pay – What are you expecting your starting pay to be? You most likely can’t afford to start on a six-figure salary. Do they appreciate money needs to be spent on the business too? They can’t expect an immediate comfortable life. Do they have enough already saved ready to invest?
Commitment – How long are you expecting to be involved in this business? You will be spending a lot of time together, years even. Do they plan on selling after a few years? What if someone starts a family and personal issues get in the way? Discuss potential futures, come to an agreement on scenarios.
Remember, not every answer is perfect. If you strive for this, you’ll never find the right partner. Aim for the most compatible answers, trust your gut feeling on if you can trust them, possibly create some scenarios to see if you can handle the same things. As long as you agree on most things, or can come to a comfortable middle point agreement, and you have a positive mind-set for it, you could become very successful entrepreneurs.
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