The following answers regarding how to balance responsibilities, lay out co-founder job descriptions, and define co-founder roles and responsibilities are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).
Co-founders are vital to the business but can get lost as the company evolves. We evaluate our co-founder job descriptions yearly to ensure that the written expectations are in line with the work the company needs done. Don’t be afraid to reassign co-founder roles and responsibilities so that business goals can be met.
You should be tracking everything and making sure that your co-founders are keeping up with the tasks that they are assigned. Tracking everything will keep everyone organized and on the same page. Talk about these openly in meetings, and don’t be afraid to make sure that your co-founder isn’t dropping the ball as you might be in the same situation and need his or her help.
You can always tell when an organization has good communication. The leaders know about a problem before it happens. It’s important that co-founders check in with each other frequently to share updates, achievements, losses and obstacles. While using each others’ strengths is important, sharing varied perspectives is equally necessary.
Whether you use Google Docs, Microsoft Project or Basecamp, all of your founders must be using the same management system. Your team should also try to streamline the number of tools you need to access on a daily basis. More is not better in this case.
When I founded Rabbit with three co-founders, we chose to run it as an equal partnership. We excelled in our individual areas but soon had issues making big, hard decisions. This could have been resolved if one of us was leading as CEO. You need to find the right person, and he/she may not be a founder. Whoever you choose as CEO, you have to actually let them be CEO. This is the most important part.
One way to minimize risk of conflict is to clearly define roles and responsibilities at the outset by signing a Co-Founder’s agreement. For example, one person handles strategy and business development while the other manages operations. Putting these in writing and agreeing on who makes the ultimate decision in a given arena or what you will do in case of disagreements is absolutely critical and too often overlooked.
At Hubstaff, we plan our business together as co-founders, and we agree to certain milestones. After that, we’re on our own to accomplish them as we see fit. We hold each other accountable for reaching our goals, but we don’t interfere in the daily work of the other’s team. It helped that we had clearly delineated roles from the beginning, so we know what the other’s turf is.
I founded French Girls App alongside two very smart and able co-founders. Andrew is our technical co-founder, Adam is our data scientist, and I’m the sales and marketing guru. When we focus on core areas of expertise, we work like a dream team. However, when our roles bleed into one another there is the potential for conflict. When assigning responsibilities, minimize overlap as much as possible.
In the beginning, it’s important to establish co-founder roles and responsibilities based on expertise. Each founder should be there because of a specific skill, and their job description should align with that skill. For instance, a technical co-founder should run technology. Other founders can have input, but on technology, the buck stops with that technical co-founder.
Each co-founder should ask what role they, and they alone, can fill, and then you should articulate those roles to your entire team. This should go beyond tactical execution and extend to personas that are widely understood throughout your organization.
The most valuable entrepreneurs are ones who can identify a vacuum and jump into filling it, so stay away from rigid job descriptions and titles that force your co-founders into a box, preventing the company from benefiting from their unique talents and skill sets. Above all, try and take a step back – running a company with multiple co-founders will often work better the less you try to overrun it.