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Top 5 Uncomfortable Questions to Discuss with your Co-Founders

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I think #4 is the most important one.

#4 is interesting...

What are you in it for? Control? Money? Fame? Want to build something?

...because you can start off being in it for one thing, and end up being in it for another.

Consider Pinterest.

It started without grand vision.

But now it seems like they're in it for the vision.

We went through these questions... having done it before we also dug deeper into company culture, being independently healthy (leading to much of our team being healthier).

The performance one is hard... more so at early stages because everything is still so inter-connected.

Performance is definitely a touchy subject. You have to be able to tell cofounders when they're not carrying enough weight.

The hardest part of all five questions is that it's easy to have answers to these questions when times are good, but when everything is super stressed, the answers might no longer be valid.

Breaking ties, for example, gets much harder in own times, especially mid-argument.

What does "independently healthy" mean? :)

This is kinda touchy-feely stuff, and in many cases people don't know how they'll react when the shit hits the fan so talking doesn't count for much. Sounds to me like you're really asking your cofounders to make a commitment so when they fuck up you can have a nice excuse to bounce them. It's exactly like a prenup, and probably has the same effect as one. If you don't trust them, don't marry them.

Here's some real shit: due to my health situation Panda and I had to make a change to our founder's agreement about what would happen to our shares upon DEATH OR DISABILITY. Our lawyer told us we were the very first founding team that had ever asked for such an agreement.

When I see conflict, I look at incentives. So much of the problem I see in the world has to do with misaligned incentives. When incentives are aligned, conflicts can be reduced to misunderstandings.

Founders, and ideally employees, need to be invested in the company for the same reason; working on the same values system. Above the mission of the company, if one founder is in it for glory and the other is in it to make it rich, and yet another is in it to make friends, then conflict will arise.

Having a consistent values system may be the most important factor in the success of a team, especially when the situation gets tough. This is why I think #4 is so important: what is everyone in it for?

Bonus CEO tip: I think the number one role of the CEO is to figure out how to align the values and incentives of the company, founders, employees and customers. If she does that, everyone on the boat is rowing together. Then she just has to figure out where to take everyone.

In a universe of irresistible forces and immovable objects, the CEO has to make choices.

Because you can do anything, but you can't do everything.

Saying no isn't the hardest part of the job. It's figuring out what to say no to.

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