The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What do you look for in the ideal business partner?” is by Daniel Saks, co-CEO and co-founder of AppDirect.
One of the most important decisions a founder has to make when starting a business is whether to stand alone or work with a partner.
It’s no secret that getting a company off the ground isn’t an easy feat, particularly for first-time founders. Many advisors, investors and peers recommend sharing the responsibilities with a partner. While putting together a founding team with the right mixture of personalities, visions and work ethics is daunting, getting it right can not only mean the difference between success and failure, but can propel your company to the next level.
I’ve been friends with Nicolas Desmarais, my co-founder at AppDirect, for many years. Long before starting our company we would always brainstorm business ideas together. We used to look at the Fortune 500 and wonder how we could one day form a company with the same kind of lasting value and legacy. After graduating college in 2007, we talked about business leaders like John D. Rockefeller, Bill Marriott and Bill Gates, and realized that the businesses with the most enduring, long-term impact all placed emphasis on core values. These touchstones determined their relationships with team members, partners and customers, and helped guide them through times of change.
Founded in 2009, AppDirect is going strong and each day brings a new adventure. As co-CEOs, Nicolas and I manage the business together, and while our friendship is a factor in our successful partnership, we’ve identified a few key elements along the way that can be applied to any business relationship:
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Have a shared vision and values
In 2009, businesses on Main Street were struggling in the wake of the Great Recession, and it looked pretty bleak for entrepreneurs. Nicolas and I pictured a world where cloud solutions could be the great leveler, and our shared vision — helping other entrepreneurs succeed —has grown the company from two to nearly 400 employees who are as passionate about that vision as us. The core values we’ve established at AppDirect — including positive mental attitude and humility — came from our personal backgrounds and have governed the way we operate as a company.
Divide and conquer responsibilities
Many of the great technology companies are either led by a products visionary or a sales visionary. Nicolas and I felt early on that it was critical to have a strong balance between the two because we wanted to create great technology, and still have the ability to scale worldwide. So he focuses on product engineering and design, and I focus on sales, business development and marketing. You’ll create a healthy, collaborative infrastructure if you each take on and understand specific responsibilities early on.
Embrace open and transparent communication
When Nicolas and I started AppDirect, we knew we had a strong foundation because we shared compatible and complimentary skillsets and passions. And of course, we knew a lot about each other’s personalities and temperaments. Work to open and honest communication. Even on occasions when you and your partner have different opinions about something, assume positive intent and a shared vision. That will allow you to arrive at whatever solution is best for the company.
See also: The real reason 65% of startups fail
Have each other’s backs
As founders, you’ll be incredibly busy and won’t always be in the same room at the same time. This can make day-to-day decision making challenging. However, knowing that any decision either of you makes is informed by your shared values and long-term vision for your company will create an underlying, mutual trust that you’ll always have each other’s interests — and the company’s interest — in mind.
Celebrate the wins and shrug off the losses
Starting a business is an immense effort with many ups and downs. It can be easy to dwell on the downs, especially in the beginning, but a great partner will encourage you to keep moving forward. When the victories come, even if they seem minor in the long run, make a point to celebrate as a team. It makes a difference to work with someone who can appreciate the positives as you go through this journey.
Read all responses to the Leadership Insider question: What do you look for in the ideal business partner?
Why you keep picking the wrong business partner by Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network.
Why friends make terrible business partners by Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta.
What you need to know before choosing a business partnerby Clark Valberg, CEO of InVision.
Never pick a business partner based on their skills alone by Pau Sabria co-founder of Olapic.
Business lessons from Iraq: How to create a dynamic team by Chris Fussell, chief growth officer at McChrystal Group.
Dolby CMO: What Star Wars taught me about finding business partners by Bob Borchers, senior vice president and CMO at Dolby Laboratories.
The quickest way to sabotage your new business by Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge.
How to avoid picking the wrong business partner by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.
3 signs you need to ditch your business partner by William Craig, founder and president of WebpageFX.
The most important relationship you will make in your career by Nirav Tolia, CEO of Nextdoor.