I'm a 1st time startup co founder and CEO. My partner joined after falling in love with the idea, but since then, decision making became much more complicated, and I feel like the product gets pulled in too many opposing directions. When I do insist on my vision, we execute together beautifully. We did agree that I'll be the CEO, but it seems he has trouble settling for it. Any advice?
Partner disagreements happen all the time. The good news is, most of the time, they are disagreements that get resolved for the better.
I'm a business performance expert, a CPA, a CGMA and highly experienced at leadership and managing companies. Allow me to suggest some options for you.
This looks like you and your partner need to reach an agreement on how to operate the company. You can do this verbally or you can do it in writing with an operating agreement. I suggest you get this agreement in writing. The results you seek are to clearly define, and understand between both of you, the way both of you may smoothly run the company.
Operating agreements may have many different segments in it including (but not limited to) defining everything from who has an operating role vs who doesn't, your responsibilities, how the company ownership and profits are split, entry and exits of partners and even the method of accounting chosen.
Once you decide with your partner who has authority regarding your product direction, the person responsible should provide good leadership to see the products are well developed, and the other should follow their respective role as agreed and defer product development decisions to the other.
If one partner breaks out of the agreed role, you should have a private, positive conversation with your partner to set your boundaries and remain in your agreed roles. When this happens, you need to have this conversation within a reasonable amount of time after the disagreement. Don't be afraid of what they think, because your product and your company are at risk. Just be respectful and let them know they crossed the line and ask that they step back behind it.
I hope this helps!
Please feel free to call me if you need help with this operating agreement, including a sample for your reference. To prepare it, you can expect you'll need a legal expert and a business expert to contribute to your desired operating agreement.
Best of Luck!
Rodger Stephens, CPA, CGMA
Business Performance Expert