Nine Tips For Achieving (And Maintaining) A Healthy Co-Founder Relationship

The partnership you have with your co-founder is arguably the most important relationship you’ll build as an entrepreneur, so it’s important to keep it healthy. Constant arguments or disagreements about how the business should be run will only divide your relationship and your company, weakening them as well as your chances of success.

To achieve a healthy relationship, then, the members of Young Entrepreneur Council have a few tips in mind. Below, they each share one piece of advice they have for building a healthy co-founder relationship and how these tips will help you maintain a healthy relationship for the long term.

1. Set Clear Boundaries For Responsibilities

I’m in a special situation because my co-founder is my husband, which means that our relationship has a different foundation than most co-founders. In our case, I started the business on my own before I brought him in, so I feel like I have to be careful when making decisions to make sure we’re both on board. I think with any co-founder relationship it’s important to set very clear boundaries about what each founder is responsible for and where their area of expertise is. For us, as a couple, this has been very easy because we know each other so well. It takes getting to know your co-founder and having a level of honesty about what you love doing in the business and what you’re comfortable with. Things will undoubtedly change over time, but knowing each person’s strengths will help. – Nathalie Lussier, AccessAlly

2. Remember To Be A Friend

Spend time together outside of work. Most co-founders start as friends and then build their working relationship together. However, when you’re focused on growing the business, you may neglect your friendship. Remember to be an active friend and listener to get a better sense of how their personal life and circumstances may be impacting their happiness and performance. That way, you can help provide advice, guidance or simply empathy. – Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress

3. Make Time For Inspiration

Set aside dedicated time to be inspired together. Inspiration can wear many hats. For some, it’s sitting in meetings discussing the upcoming year’s growth, projections and numbers. For others, it’s a business trip with the team to reconnect, or it’s prepping and pitching to investors. Whether the relationship with your business partner started as a friendship or it’s professional, fostering the shared inspiration in your business is the cornerstone of your working relationship and is crucial to maintaining momentum. In doing so, you’ll find that you’re both working toward the same goals and laying the building bricks of a relationship that will stand the test of time. – Nick Venditti, StitchGolf

4. Focus On Better Communication

The most important thing for building a healthy partnership with your co-founder is communication because it’s what’s at the heart of any good relationship. This is especially true for co-founders, who need to be able to rely on each other for open and honest feedback at all times. Without communication, it’s easier for problems to fester and grow, risking irreparable damage to the relationship. Communicate openly and honestly with each other about everything—from goals and expectations to fears and concerns. It’s also crucial to feel comfortable approaching difficult conversations free from defensiveness or taking things personally. If you can focus on these aspects of communication, you’ll be on the right track to having a long and successful partnership. – Richard Fong, Assured Standard

5. Plan For How You’ll Resolve Conflict

It’s hard to fire a co-founder. Having visceral, existential alignment is critical. One of the most useful questions that I have asked or wished I had asked in the several co-founder relationships I have experienced is, “How will we resolve day-to-day differences of opinion to make them a positive creative tension, not a drip of acid on the bond between us?” Founder conflict is one of the top reasons startups fail. Quality relationships are crucial to business success. The key is to notice and remove any emotion that can escalate a conflict. You need to acknowledge the emotions you are feeling while recognizing the concerns and emotions of your co-founder. Respect and recognition should be at the center of your relationship from day one. – Ryan Stoner, Dendro

6. Take Ego Out Of The Equation

Strike out the ego from the relationship with your co-founder. In order to stay solution-focused, you need to be brutally honest with your business partner or co-founder. If you are communicating without ego, then there is a high probability that you will not take things personally, and you’ll end up making better decisions for your business. Further, your personal ego also forces you to become biased in many ways that are harmful to the overall growth of your business, so communicate openly and often. It’s important to be able to have difficult conversations about the business and to do so in a constructive way. It also helps you to be respectful of each other’s time and space. Make sure you take breaks and have some down time together outside of work to refresh your creative edge. – Candice Georgiadis, Digital Day

7. Maintain Transparency

Maintaining transparency ensures a healthy relationship with your business partner in the long run. The circumstances are not always the same. You can make millions today and be inches away from declaring bankruptcy tomorrow. Having transparency is something that keeps you and your partner on the same page. It helps you breed a strong relationship because you know the other person is not hiding anything from you. So, even when things go south, your bond would be strong enough to make it through. When things are favorable, sharing the riches becomes much easier. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

8. Ensure You Share The Same Vision

Sharing the same vision would streamline a lot of things and make it easier to fight daily battles. Because you have the same destination, you expect similar things from one another when walking the path that leads there. Moreover, your definition of success and failure is more or less the same. This minimizes the chances of conflict during difficult times. And you both are equally motivated by achievement as you weigh it on the same scale. This significantly strengthens your bond and helps you acknowledge a healthy relationship. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

9. Hold Regular One-On-One Meetings

You can build a strong relationship with your co-founder by having biweekly (or weekly, depending on your situation) one-on-one meetings. Use this time to review the status of major projects, uncover potential roadblocks and generally strive to improve the workflow for everyone at the company. This tip is helpful for several reasons. Notably, these meetings will help you squash potential problems. If these issues are addressed early on, you can work together to move forward in a healthy and productive way. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights