The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What are the benefits of starting a company with a partner?” is written by Matthew Roche, CEO of Extole.
Take a minute to reflect on some of the greatest successes in your life, both personally and professionally. I’m willing to guarantee that the majority of them weren’t achieved alone. I know mine weren’t. Partnerships are the lifeblood of my past and current successes, and the help of others delivers more than trying to do it all on my own.
This truth of course applies to starting a company, as well. There are always risks associated with partnering up. And, like any relationship, trust is essential to finding co-founder success. But when done wholeheartedly, I believe it’s always better to ride together in business than to ride alone.
Find your match
In 1996, my brother Jamie hired me to work for him as a reseller at his company. Both blessed (and cursed) with entrepreneurial spirits, we soon partnered up to begin building our own business together. It was a natural fit from day one, with our brotherly bond offering the support, tolerance, and honesty that one can only dream of having in a partner.
As new entrepreneurs, it was easier to start a company with my brother. We had complementary skills, brute honesty, and an innate understanding of one another, all of which allowed us to get work done quickly. I realized early on that I would be reluctant to ever walk the startup path without a co-founder, and my brother Jamie and I went on to work as partners for more than a decade.
Rely on honesty
Throughout the years, it became apparent to me that one of the greatest inhibitors of success is clouded vision. Any leader is going to have their strengths and weaknesses, but as human beings, they’re also going to have their biases. Only the extraordinarily gifted have the strength to overcome what’s so deeply ingrained in them, and I for one know that I can sometimes use a little help in this area. This is where a great partner comes in. Anyone who can offer you a perspective different from your own and can push you to do something you’re not inclined to do is someone you want by your side when important decisions need to be made. Henry David Thoreau was onto something when he said, “It takes two to speak the truth—one to speak, and another to hear."
In addition to offering clarity, a great partner should also provide an element of therapy when appropriately needed. Very few roads lead straight up in the startup world, so it’s a huge benefit to work with someone who can shore you up and keep your eye on the prize.
Remember that it’s not just about business
Admittedly, my story is a bit of a cheat. Not everyone has a sibling that they can or want to start a business with, and family and friends can either be the absolute best source of partnership or undeniably the worst. I do believe, however, that there’s something more to the co-founder than just a colleague, and that having a relationship formed on a commitment beyond the current business context is essential.
To find a true partner, always rely on your conversations exploring your partnership to establish trust from the beginning. The initial effort is significant. When done openly and rigorously, it’s possible to find someone to both bear the burdens and share in the successes. And to me, that always makes the hard work more enjoyable and the success more likely.