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How to Navigate Co-Founder Conflicts Before They Even Arise

In recent times, more companies have shut down because of the inability to resolve co-founder conflicts. At the beginning, it may seem like having conflicts with your co-founder is far-fetched, but the reality is that they can come up at any stage of your business journey. That's why it is important to have a plan in place for navigating co-founder conflicts before they arise.

At the core, successful co-founders need to be able to communicate openly, trust one another implicitly, and respect each other’s decisions. Having certain ground rules in place beforehand can prevent co-founder conflicts before they even arise.

  1. Settle on a clear division of roles and responsibilities.

Establishing clear roles and responsibilities removes every room for ambiguity while each co-founder can be held responsible for their own task. It alos helps to make clear what every co-founder is doing per time, with relation to the business.

  1. Set expectations for each other's work ethic and level of commitment to the business.

What level of commitment are you expecting from your co-founder? How often should they be working on the business? Setting expectations for each other’s work ethic and commitment helps to ensure that both co-founders are taking their roles in the company seriously. 

  1. Make sure all agreements are in writing.

More often than you’d expect, context gets lost. To ensure that all agreements are clear and legally binding, you should document your understanding in a co-founding agreement. This helps to minimise potential conflicts between the parties involved.

  1. Agree upon a system for giving feedback and constructive criticism in order to promote trust.

This is an important part of any relationship, and business partnerships are no different. Understand that when dealing with issues, it is you and your co-founder vs the problem, not, you vs your cofounder.

To address issues, you can ask:

  1. What went wrong?
  2. Why did things go wrong?
  3. How can we fix this?
  4. How can we prevent this from repeating itself?

Also, ensure that each co-founder is comfortable giving/receiving honest feedback that will help the other grow.

  1. Establish a clear decision-making process that both parties agree upon in advance, so that all areas of disagreement can be easily addressed when they arise.

It is helpful to decide what happens if you both disagree with the strategic direction the company should take as it grows, what happens if one of you wants to quit and what will an exit process look like?

By setting up these ground rules, startup founders can better equip themselves with the knowledge needed to confront any potential conflict with their co-founder head-on - rather than waiting until it happens and it becomes a big issue for the company.

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