Cain and Abel. Romulus and Remus. Itchy and Scratchy. What do all these iconic duos have in common? Not much some might say, considering the latter are no more than a TV show within a TV show (albeit a rather amusing one). But they do. Sure, they all ended up killing each other but it was only through their union that they were abel (zing) to create something much bigger which one them a place in history, may it be tangible or fictional. Sadly, unlike in the tales of old and TV series of not-so-old, killing your business partner is not going to make you the sole founder and ruler of the eternal startup, it is much more likely to get you some serious jail time. So, to save you from your own murdering ways, we’ve come up with a short guide to help you preserve your partner’s life. However crazy he might drive you.
1. Prepare for conflict!
We’ve all been there: the more time you spend with someone, the more likely you are to have an argument with them. It’s human nature. As we get to know others, we lose the initial tentativeness in saying something we think might be received as off-putting and potentially derail the friendship, and start speaking more freely, directly addressing what we see as issues or flaws. We want our friends to thrive because no-one likes to hang around people who keep making the same mistakes every day, it’s just not much fun. Throw money, ambition and business performance in to the mix and you have the blueprint for a time bomb. Ironically, the best way to defuse it is knowing it’s going to explode at some point. Take some time to think about the general situation: what are your strengths and weaknesses? Can you identify any fertile ground for arguments? Is it worth arguing about? Did you have the last helping of multi-seed-raw-turbo-detox-spirulina-infused-Paleo-organic-breakfast crunch? Spotting conflict areas early and doing some prevention work to iron out the kinks can defuse potentially explosive circumstances before they can cause serious damage. After all, you don’t see bomb disposal teams rushing in to cut the blue wire. No. They always seem to forget and take their time picking between red and blue. No one likes, nor needs, a situation.
2. Be an adult
Now forget about the time bomb. Envision a pressure cooker instead: gleaming, full of pressurised steam, hissing menacingly at you and with the “potential” to deliver a delicious meal or blow up in your face. Your business is the pressure cooker, communication is the steam whirling around inside it and you are the steam vent. Just as the vent regularly lets out steam, so should you make sure that any issue or disagreement is addressed ASAP. No point in trying to avoid conflict by sealing communication channels or reducing face-time to a minimum. The initial phase might mean you’re both too busy making sure everything is going in the right direction to incur any disagreements. But when peak turns to trough you might find yourselves caught out, not knowing how to address difficulties correctly, which can help pave the way for what psychologist John Gottman refers to as “The Four Horsemen”, nominally criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. The worst part? When Gottman identified these behaviours in marital relationships he was able to predict their failure with eerie accuracy! Luckily, there are ways to help you stop them in their tracks (you won’t have to marry your counterpart for these to work).
3. Know your role
Too many cooks spoil the broth (how many culinary references can we fit in one blog post?) says the old proverb and rightly so. Cooks are notoriously hot tempered, so try and imagine two of them cooking the same dish their own way: yikes. We’re not saying you and your partner(s) have a bad temper but we’re guessing your business is to you what a menu is to a chef. You know what to do with it and how you want to do it, yet so does your other-business half. Bother. The solution? Know. Your. Role. Make sure you identify all the areas in your business, assess who is better suited to what role and (surprise surprise) assign them to it. What you should make clear is that once a position has been assigned, the person in charge has the final say in that area. Everyone gets a chance to listen to each other and speak their mind, but once the “head chef” has made a decision it’s final. Everyone has their area of expertise and it goes without saying that in order to really thrive they should be able to put their knowledge to good use within it.
4. Get external advice
Still feel like killing someone? Well, in that case it’s probably best to get some help from the outside. I’m not saying you should start seeing a shrink but getting advice from someone on the outside of the storm could lend a useful hand. Good friends, respected acquaintances, parents (not the best if your qualm rests with a sibling!), brothers/sisters (sic.), investors, mentors (we know a few...). The point is to get advice from someone who knows you well enough to give you an honest opinion, not a sugarcoated platitude. When was the last time your friend(s) failed tell you your shirt was hideous and your recent shave made you look like a pre-pubescent mess? My guess is never. And while friends are a good point of contact for honest opinions, less informal advisors like mentors and investors have the knowledge and expertise to help face the difficulties that appear during any walk off the beaten track.
So, while you’re focusing on cute teddy bears and frantically smacking your fidget spinner, we’d like you to know that here at Launch22 we have all the support and resources you need to find your inner peace and up your spin game. Scared we won’t let you out the door once you’ve made it here? We offer free trials, daily and monthly memberships so convenient you’ll think we’ve gone silly, so just come down, meet the team and see for yourself. We promise (*not to alert the authorities*) we’ll love you both regardless of what the other says.