In failing to build a company, I have learned many things. Core to all of them is that a company is not a product. Ideas change, products change, people change. We “pivot”, rapidly, relentlessly, sometimes ruthlessly.
Managed well, change is a catalyst. Managed badly, it can be catastrophic.
In this series, I try to explain the various ways in which I failed to understand this, and how I would endeavour to do better next time. You may notice that the style of these posts is more instructive than usual. Remember that these are mostly addressed to my future self, and as such, I am telling myself what to do; you, my dear thought provokee, can do whatever you want.
We form relationships with our co-founders under the best of intentions.
It’s still a relationship. If you’re doing something right, inevitably, there will be conflict. This is normal. Whether it’s healthy or not depends on how you handle it.
You could wait for this conflict to emerge, and then work on it. However, this is costly: you’ve invested a lot more into the company by this point, and perhaps you even have employees, who won’t get much of a say but will still have to deal with it.
Instead, practice. You could talk about controversial things (”here’s how I think we should run this business”), and get it all out in the open before you even start, but I don’t encourage that, because that kind of conversation is hard enough when you have stable foundations. It’s even tougher when you have more than two founders, because it’s quite easy for two people to come to a conclusion while completely ignoring input from others, and still think they’ve got consensus.
So hire a professional—a therapist, a coach, a facilitator. Have those conversations, but explore them with someone who knows how to facilitate them and help you grow. With help, you can have these discussions earlier.
You’re going to have them anyway. Make sure they’re constructive.
More in the series
- Focus on the problem, not the solution
- If the company goals change, the company should probably change too
- "Do research" is not a corporate strategy
- Your corporate values transcend your product vision
- Trust your gut, understand your heart, and open your mind
- Go to therapy with your co-founders
- Explore the terrain first
- Unless someone cares, don't waste your time
- Code is a liability; ship without coding, if possible
- Do less, and do it better
- Agile methods are tools to try more ideas in less time
- Until you have traction, money is a trap
- If you don’t know how to do it, that’s your biggest problem
- Roles can be fluid, but they must be defined
- Camaraderie is helpful, but no substitute for working together