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Coach-Soch: When co-founders decide to part ways

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Coach-Soch: When co-founders decide to part ways

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A short business narrative (of a 3 min read) that sets the context, challenge(s) faced, the type of leadership involved and the questions to ponder about, to solve for the issues. This is not to give answers; for business & life in general is not like a school-guide-book. This column is to provoke the reader to think more. And to sensitise that each individual or organisation are unique, and the answers would depend on the situation, difference in organisational culture, context, etc.

Coach-Soch: When co-founders decide to part ways
To question, is to think. To think, is to introspect. To introspect, is to seek. To seek, is to be aware. To be aware, is when the journey begins.
Co-founders splitting up
A split between co-founders can be an agreed-one or a messy one but never without sadness and human pain. It sucks up the energy levels of all people involved.
“Founder relationships are hard”. Apart from chemistry and competencies that co-founders share, it is a daily work-in-progress to stabilise their rapport and relationship. The stress of being in a startup is high and is tough for those individuals and their families.
Every co-founding team goes through its set of differences and disagreements about business, operations, people, funding, and many more. The team is a mix of different personalities and those with varying communication styles.
The stress of being in a startup is bad and almost constant. There are communication challenges, disagreements about strategy and personality and sometimes about skills that the business needs from the founders change.
A founding relationship is like being in a marriage but many founders’ relationships come together much more quickly than a marriage, with lesser courting time. Sometimes things don’t work out and one of the co-founders needs to leave. But the main point is that they recognise that things are not working out and want to leave. It is far better for all stakeholders to accept it and move on rather than sulk and not allow positive thinking.
Disagreements and more
The sooner co-founders accept disagreements will be part of their entrepreneurial path, lesser the heartburn. The trick is to agree in advance on how those deadlocks would be resolved. It is frequently seen that co-founders base their business relationship on friendship and start a venture without formal legal understanding of such deadlock scenarios and how to solve them.
Regardless of whether it’s due to differing views in company strategy, commitment issues, or simply because the company has outgrown their skills, breaking up is never easy.
When co-founders agree that they have to split, it is better for the separation to be quick. The longer one lingers, harder and messier the scenario could turn. On a daily basis, it brings much embarrassment to co-founders to act normal and to cheer their teams to continue.
Business splits hurt as much as personal splits. For an entrepreneur, business is a vital part of what defines them and their identity. The founder who will stay back to continue with the venture will have to communicate to the teams to perform without any difference to the split while those who leave will go through the journey of figuring out what next and how. That would define their new identity and at times even impacts their self-worth and self-confidence.
Why do the splits happen?
Co-founder split because of several reasons:
Mismatch in personalities
Different work styles
Misaligned business visions
Unequal distribution of work
Unresolved disagreements
Jealousy
Relationship sans business connect
It is important to remember that co founders share(d) a personal rapport apart from their business relationship. After the split, is it possible to remain friendly? Can their families retain their bonhomie?
High quality relationships are central to the quality of life and business success. Yet many are not equipped to handle varying demands of nurturing relationships. We take relationships for granted and that sets the process of some of those networks decaying. On the other side of this relationship-coin, at times we expect partners (including co-founders) to become like us or even a better version. That’s a sign of trouble brewing.
For anyone, if a specific (business) relationship is not salvageable, it is better to cut it clean and transparently and not to burn bridges. Ensure that a split still leaves positive energies within you and not bitterness, anger, and other negative feelings. You can still remain friendly and invested in each other’s growth and happiness.
– The author, Srinath Sridharan is a Corporate Adviser and Independent Markets Commentator. For other articles in the Coach Soch series, click here.
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