One question that I frequently get asked is the story of how Connie and I met as well as how to pick your co-founder. It seems to be a topic that many founders grapple with early in the growth of their companies. So, I thought that it would be helpful to break down my experience! In this blog post I'm going to cover how I knew I wanted/needed a co-founder, how Connie and I met and finally, suggestions about how to find your partner-in-crime match!
First off, I'm just slightly biased when it comes to the solopreneur vs co-founding team argument. Before starting Three Ships (formerly NIU BODY), I had a house painting business while still in school for which I was the sole owner. My painters were all rock-stars so I definitely wasn't on my own per se but let me tell you, boy was it tough! I found that I missed having someone to bounce ideas off of, balance out my skill sets and just "get it" when sh*t inevitably hit the fan. Sure, you have family and friends who will be there for you as well, but in my experience there truly is no substitute for having another founder by your side.
One simple test that you can use to determine if having a co-founder is for you is to think back to group projects in school - did you LOVE them or DREAD them? (In my experience there is no in between!). If you're the kind of person who hated or was just "meh" about every group project you've ever been a part of, then perhaps consider going into business solo. Personally, I loved group projects. I always had more fun solving a problem on a team and found that I had a greater level of satisfaction when the work was accomplished as a team.
So when it came time to getting NIU BODY off the ground, I knew that I would be needing a killer co-founder to go through this crazy journey with me. Now, I'll be the first to admit that how Connie and I met was very fortunate and one of those "stars all aligning" moments. I just happened to pitch the idea for the brand to a friend of mine, who had gone to middle school with Connie. He recommended that I run the brand, pricing and packaging by her for a bit of market research so Connie and I met up for what was supposed to be a quick 45 min sushi dinner that quickly turned into a 3 hour business brainstorming session! At the end of that meeting, I offered Connie to join as my co-founder and we literally got started working on the business the next day.
Of course, this isn't how it works out in all cases. Many founders look for their co-founder for months before finding their match, so we definitely got lucky there! It's said that getting into business with someone is like getting married, and I think that the age old adage of "when you know, you know" certainly rings true here as well! However, there were a few key things that I was looking for signal my co-founder match.
This is critical! You don't (and probably shouldn't) agree on every aspect of life or business, but when it comes to your core values I've found that it's crucial that these are identical. For example, things like how you define honesty, integrity, trust, commitment and loyalty. These value sets are engrained into us as people from a very young age and are next to impossible to change. Not having the same values will lead to extra conflict about brand standards, ethics and growth strategies - something that you definitely want to avoid. Right from our first conversation I could tell that Connie had the same values as me by how she spoke about her friends, family and work.
Remember that you aren't looking for your doppelganger! An ideal partner should compliment your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your interests. In our case, Connie's natural strengths/interests are sales and marketing vs mine are analytics and design. By having strengths which are opposite, we are able to cover all bases of the business and have a very clear division of what we each over-see within the company.
You should also look for a partner who is complimentary from a personality stand-point. We found it shocking to learn that Connie and I are actually opposite Myers-Briggs personality types! I'm an INTP vs Connie as an ESFJ. This has been such an immense advantage for us as the things that over-whelm me come very naturally to her and vice versa!
This one might go without saying, but both co-founders should have the same idea for how much time they want to dedicate to the business each week. Your friend who is looking for "just some extra cash on the side" probably isn't going to be a match for you if you're wanting to work 100 hours a week on building your dream. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer for how many hours you have to work on the business, you just want to make sure that you find someone who has the same ideas on this as you! Connie and I have been extremely well matched here, despite our very different work styles (I'm a night owl to the max vs Connie is an early bird).
Identical Long-Term Goals
It's important to remember that everyone start businesses for different reasons. Some people want to build a legacy which they will pass down through their family for generations, others want to change the world and still others will opt for a more "Tim Ferriss" style business that affords them ultimate freedom in their lives. If as co-founders, your long-term goals in your life/the life of the company aren't aligned then you can guarantee that you're going to be paddling in different directions. Neither goal is right or wrong, but you just want to make sure that you ask up front what their idea of "success" would look like in the company. Make sure you're on the same page on this one from the start!
Hopefully these pointers are helpful for all of you who are looking for your co-founder match! As always, if you have any questions/comments, drop them down in comments section below, DM us on Instagram, or shoot me an email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy to chat with other budding business owners!