Co-Founder Issues

Steve August
October 19, 2020
Real-Life Leadership
5 Rules for Rocket Ships

Some weeks, a particular topic just leaps out and begs to be written about. Last week was one of those weeks.

Over the last 10 days, I've had 4-5 conversations with folks working through Co-Founder issues.

The working relationship between Co-Founders can make or break a company. As the company grows and evolves, it is not uncommon for that core relationship to shift and come into stress.

It’s especially common as a company transitions from Seed to Growth Stage.

Here are 3 perspectives that will help you navigate Co-Founder issues:

  1. You are a Founder forever. You have to re-earn your title at each stage.
    You and your Co-Founders got Founder titles by starting something amazing. But CxO titles have to be re-earned at each stage. Each on your individual, parallel journeys as your company grows and evolves. You are all in the process of doing it separately and together. People make these transformations at different rates. And sometimes a Co-Founder may not be able to make the leap to the next stage. The key is for everyone to be aware that they need to evolve with the company and keep re-earning their C-level title.
  2. Roles over history
    As the company evolves from Seed to Growth, it inevitably needs to mature operationally if it is to succeed. A big part of this is clearly defining roles. In the early going, when everyone is wearing lots of hats, there’s a lot of cross-role activity. Everyone is leading on product, marketing, sales, etc. It’s part of the company’s history.

    But as the company matures, that quickly starts to break down. People have to start taking off some of the hats and specialize in a particular role. The roles themselves require increasing operational and managerial skill. This means there has to be alignment about how decisions get made in a particular functional area. Ultimately, whoever has the role of leading their functional area should be respected as the decision maker, with the CEO Founder in the role of making the ultimate call.
  1. Choose an operating system for the company and follow it
    One of the keys to optimizing Co-Founder relationships, as well as the function of the entire company, is embracing a business operating system (BOS). A BOS offers a framework for how the company should work, how to set the mission and vision, how to define roles, how to hire for those roles, and how to establish the quarterly cadence of hitting milestones. The companies that I’ve worked with that embraced the idea of a BOS, do an amazing job of navigating challenges and removing impediments to rapid growth. However, there has to be full buy-in from company leaders. When Co-Founders embrace their company’s Operating System fully, there are clear paths to resolve issues quickly and decisively, enabling the company to keep moving forward.

Co-Founder relationships evolve over time as Founders go through the journey together. It’s inevitable that there will be stresses and strains, but if you keep these three things in mind, you’ll have great tools to get the most out of each other.

Free Live Event with 818 Startups! From Seed Founder to Growth CEO Wed 10-21-20
I'll be presenting a live Zoom lunch and learn for 818 Startups on the 3 Critical Transformations every Founder needs to make to become a true growth CEO.

It's this Wednesday 10/21 and free for anyone to attend.

In this event, I'm going to talk through the 3 Transformations, discuss the 5 Rules for Rocket Ships, and share my hardest won lessons.

So be sure to register here.

Until next time,


Helping Founders Build Rocket Ships

PS Ready toTake Your Growth To The Next Level?  Let's talk. Schedule a growth conversation here.

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