Founders almost always cite lack of money as the reason for failure, but if you look deeper, I believe the reason is more often about dysfunctional people and leadership. Sometimes it comes right back to the founder, in terms of a malaise often called “founder’s syndrome.” I’m currently involved in a startup that has been teaching me about this phenomenon and now see the true affect it has on the moral of both the employees and the company.
The quality of the relationships among co-founders is one of the most important elements of successful startups.
That’s why so many VCs and investors care not only about your pitch, your idea and your numbers but also about the interactions within your team.
They’ve seen startups fall apart time and again because of fights among founders.
Left to their own, the relationship among co-founders will deteriorate more often than not. That’s why you need to maintain and nurture them to keep them healthy, and you need to start before they shows any symptoms of illness.
Start “dating” your co-founders
Our way of keeping co-founder relationships working well is a weekly founders’ dinner.
Having our weekly tradition has helped us through numerous high-pressure situations. Instead of letting stress and tension escalate into animosities, we used the heat to forge a stronger bond among us.
Even when we were just three guys working in the same room all day (eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner together), every Thursday, we’d have our founders’ dinner.
We felt a bit ridiculous doing this founders’ dinner sometimes, but we decided that our relationship was a top priority, and we knew that forming this habit early on was important. We made a choice to be disciplined about it, and it paid off.
Here’s how we structure our founders’ dinners:
- We have a free-style conversation and talk about whatever we feel like. Whether it’s business-related or personal, we share what’s going on in our lives.
- Then we talk about our current concerns: developments in our business or in our marketplace, certain people, challenges, problems, and worries. We honestly and transparently bring up everything – not just the facts but also how we feel about these things, e.g., any stress, anxieties, tension, and so on.
- Then each of us takes turns, asking the others: “Is there anything I did last week that made you feel upset or angry? Did I create any stress or negativity in your life? Was there anything I did that confused or disappointed you? How do you feel about my performance? Are you happy with the job I’m doing? Do I inspire you or disappoint you?”
The key to success of such dinners is to bring up anything that comes to your mind, no matter how small it may seem, and give everyone the opportunity to express their feelings. Don’t swipe things under the carpet.
Nothing is “too small” to communicate
We’re often tempted to think that little things don’t matter because they’re too insignificant. But they’re like seeds that first grow roots, then stems and leaves, and eventually – poisonous fruit. Five years later, you might find yourself in a fight because all these tiny little things you thought didn’t matter turned into resentment and hatred.
That’s why you should address even the littlest of issues so that you can completely resolve them before they start to fester. The founders’ dinner is your safe environment to express and process any grievances you may have and work through any animosities that might be brewing below the surface.
Your co-founder relationship either grows or dies
As your company matures and grows, and the founders spend less time with each other and more time with their own teams, the founders’ dinners will become the sacred space where you can still experience that original sense of intimacy and camaraderie you had when you first started out.
It’s an investment that will pay high dividends over time and help you build a foundation of trust and mutual understanding. Not only will it help you maintain your relationships, but it will also help you evolve them further. As a result, your team will become stronger with each passing year.
Every company has underperformers. Sometimes they are just not up to the task or a poor culture fit. Sometimes, however, it’s not entirely the employee’s fault. There are plenty of bad bosses out there as well.
Many people come to positions of power without proper skills or training for managing and leading people. They get their management positions because they were good performers or it was their turn in seniority. Too many companies promote people without helping them learn how to lead and manage. Then all are surprised when performance and morale suffers.
You can help prepare yourself to be a great leader. Start with these actions:
Small businesses added 75,000 jobs last January, according to payroll company Automated Data Processing. If things have been looking up at your organization, you may be eyeing a few new potential staff members as well. If you’ve been on the sidelines in the hiring game these past few years though, you might want to take a few moments to review some best practices for your expanding team. Here are seven tips for effective hiring at your small business.
However, many folks probably don’t think about exactly where those VC dollars that help fund startups actually come from. So I wanted to dive a little deeper into what I call the startup capital supply chain. I’ve had a version of this post in my “drafts” folder for some time, but the confluence of three unconnected things (more on these later) prompted me to finally finish and publish it.
The number of companies that use their employees as brand advocates or brand ambassadors is on the rise, and it makes good business sense.
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer and Nielsen report respectively, everyday employees are twice as trusted as executives, and consumers are 77% more likely to buy a product when they hear about it from someone they trust.
Employees serve as the engine behind this movement, with content and marketing serving as the fuel to keep it going. Marketing departments are teaching their employees how to share a consistent brand story, how to leverage social media, and are giving employees the opportunity to represent the company.
Bringing a new C-level executive on board is always fraught with risk: Any misstep can be expensive and embarrassing. As a result, companies may play it safe by looking for someone with just the right CV or perhaps a recent stint at a high-flying competitor. Who does the board like? What will the analysts think?
The challenge has become even more daunting as an increasing number of companies use their culture as a point of differentiation and strategic advantage. Look, for example, at the companies that have embraced the concept of “creating shared value” or “conscious capitalism.” These “higher ambition” firms pursue a stakeholder-centric approach to business, which makes it difficult to find a stellar candidate to fill a top role. The right person must possess industry credentials and embrace a fundamentally different conception of the role of business in society.