Sorry to answer a question with a question, but why do you want to strengthen the relationship, rather than going your separate ways?
A business partnership is similar to a marriage or other very intimate relationship. If you can't have open and honest communication, the relationship will suffer.
In my opinion, once you start to hit the point where you need counseling, it's difficult to pick up the pieces of the relationship - more so than in a marriage, even.
With that said, if you have no option other than to work on the relationship, you need to start at the beginning and work on communication skills. Learn how to listen to each other, and talk to each other. Get vulnerable. Understand each other's feelings, motivations and goals in life.
If you can't start there, then "splitting up the work" is nothing but a band-aid on your relationship that will ultimately hurt or kill your business. In a startup, any sort of work-splitting will be temporary. As the company grows and the business matures and/or flounders, you will need to re-evaluated the work split, your individual roles, and the company's goals.
All of that requires rock solid communication and vulnerability.
If the co-founders are serious about making it work, they will commit to improving the relationship together. That may mean attending events like Landmark Forum or Tony Robbins together. It may mean going through group counseling. More likely, someone will leave the team - if not now, then in the future - either by choice or by force.
Yup, it really is like a marriage.
My co-founder and I knew of each other for years before thinking about working together. And then we talked. A LOT. About every topic under the sun.
We made sure it was compatible before starting to work together. And having done so, we achieved more in six months than I had on my own for six years before. We're arriving at the end of the first year of our partnership now.
Having a partner you can trust to do tasks is amazing...for both sides. Generally, one does the sales and bizdev work, and the other focuses on operations. However, we find overlap all the time and attempts to restrict one partner to a single set of duties has not worked well. One of us does tend to lead in an area, though.
There have been times when we've stepped on each other's toes and annoyed one another, but communication is quick and I don't think either has stayed upset for more than a few hours. Usually it's an "Oops I forgot about that" kind of thing...or someone rushing to make a decision on an urgent need that needs a solution.
I know my co-founder will go through walls for me and I think he knows the same. I trust him completely as he has had many opportunities to fade or not follow through and yet has shown up every time. He lives 6 hours away from me and I have visited about every 4 months. We have taken prospective clients as well as prospective employees out to dinner on those occasions and increased the bonding that way. In-person visits for several days get you out of your comfort zone and routine and make change happen.
There's a theory about "strings" connecting you to another person. If there's only one or a few strings, like in a bad relationship or a new one, and something happens to cut one of them, it's a disaster. There isn't much to connect you.
But if you have many strings because of the talks and the understanding of the other's point of view and what you can expect--we know pretty much what the other will do--and frankly a little good shared suffering, then if an upset happens and one string is cut, it's not a big deal. There are hundreds more holding that relationship together.
A co-founder relationships is not a transactional one. It needs to be based on respect and value and trust or it won't last...and I guess that's why so many of them don't.
You need to create an organizational chart and define the responsibilities and tasks of the different roles.
This way everyone knows what they're responsible for and what is expected of them.
Arrange a call with me if you'd like to review how this is done or visit www.EasySmallBizSystems.com where you can find my online course on how to do this.
Hire a Coach: A performance coach can help you set a vision, goals, strategies and tactics. Then they can work with you to prioritize the work and hold you accountable. A skilled coach will be able to push you and probe into the relationship when things aren't working and progress is not made. Many so-called life coaches can help with this. Think of it as a couples counselor and grade school teacher asking for a completed assignment rolled into one.
1. Make sure you share similar values and complementary motivations for starting the business.
2. Identify your respective strengths, weaknesses, and interests.
3. Be open and honest with each other, always -- especially when it's uncomfortable.
4. Get some wins together. Accomplish some key tasks or objectives as a team.
5. Have a defined process for how to make decisions when you don't agree. e.g. certain decisions are handled by one, others require unanimity, others require input from both but the tie breaker is...
It's called co-founder bonding and it isn't talked about enough in the startup community. You will see most of those things are not business related at all. It's really the best if your co-founder becomes simply a close friend. Of course, it's not always possible to make him one of your best friends, because co-founder should be complementary, so they should fill the areas of expertise that the other co-founders doesn't have. So, by definition, your co-founder should be the exact opposite of you. In theory, this would make things a bit, in reality, even though co-founders complement each other, they are not so different after all.
Let's start with the non-business related things that strengthen the bond with your co-founders:
1. Take him for a week-end hike with your friends
2. Go rafting
3. Have your kids and his play with one another
4. Grab a beer with him
5. Learn his humor and adapt to his personality.
A few business related things
1. Get him to do favors for you business-wise and non-business wise. It will make him like you more. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2011/11/16/do-me-a-favor-so-youll-like-me-the-reverse-psychology-of-likeability/#6e63dff574a5)
2. Make sure he has enough equity to be emotionally invested in the company. You can have a co-founder that has 5% in the company and he might stick around for 2 years, but if things are going slightly wrong or it's going too slow, he will quit. A co-founder with 40% equity has a much higher pain-limit obviously. So, you need to make a trade-off about equity you keep and pain-limit of your co-founder.
3. Make sure your vision is somewhat aligned with your founders vision. Your visions won't ever be exactly the same, so you need to make a compromise. Make a step towards him isn't a bad idea if the alternative is him leaving the company after a few more months.
4. Have difficult conversations about the business with him. I have seen co-founders that have several things that really annoy them about each other, but they never mention it in order to not disturb the peace. This might work short-term, but long term, you will create a weird atmosphere, where you have to be artificially friendly and can't talk about the things that should really be addressed.