By Ramanujam Sridhar
Often startups have more than one founder and while it is possible that one of the founders is more equal than the others, nurturing the relationship with a co-founder with tact requires close attention. Know what could be possible stress points and, better still, ensure that things remain on an even keel throughout the life of your venture.
Communication is crucial
It is important to correspond and keep each other posted on all decisions taken, even if it pertains to the other's area of competence. Say, if my competence is marketing, I would ensure that I discuss the advertising campaign with my co-founder and appreciate his feedback, rather than springing it as a surprise on him, though I am well within my rights to approve it.
Startups will succeed when founders continue to see eye-to-eye on all key issues. Differences, if any, should be discussed and a mutually acceptable way forward arrived at and agreed upon rather than leaving issues under the carpet, unresolved, only to see them rear their ugly heads at inconvenient times.
Respect is key
When you analyze organizations that have had trouble, you quickly realize that one of the reasons for relationships to sour is when partners and founders lose respect for each other's abilities over a period of time. You joined hands with someone because you respected their ability, skill or competence. That is the basis of the relationship. Be complimentary to each other's abilities; recognize these abilities both publicly and privately.
Professionally-run organizations have a greater chance of success
Another possible area of conflict is the inclusion of family into the business. You and your co-founder may get along famously, but you could create tension if you introduce family into your venture. Biases and prejudices are likely to set in, complicating relationships and matters. Running a business is complex as it is, making your life difficult by getting your children or spouse into the business isn't advisable.
Honesty is paramount
Running a business is a challenge; adhering to certain basic principles of honesty and integrity makes everyone's life easier. While many reasons may be advanced for the success of Infosys as an enterprise, transparency of the founders with each other for a period of time, including determining who should be the successor, was the key factor here. It is easier said than done, but the success of the company is a beacon of light to all companies or ventures with several founders.
Running a business is easier if you adhere to the basic principles of transparency, fairness and open communication.
This story appeared in the July 2012 issue of Entrepreneur.