Picking up where she left off
Founder, Fundraising Heavy Hitter, Public Speaker and Market Strategist
Successful cofounder relationships are founded on common values.
You will spend more time with your cofounder than your family. Make sure there is trust & openness.
Ask: do you respect your cofounder’s choices?
Lesson: She Works with Rachel Braun Scherl
Step #4 Co-Founders: Picking up where she left off
I've been fortunate enough to have the same business partner for over 15 years. I met her in somewhat of a serendipitous fashion. My business partner's name is Mary Jaensch and she was consulting to this agency where I got a job. Before I accepted the job I said, "Do any women work here?" Because had I met five or ten men and I said I just wanted to get a sense of if any women work there. They said, "Yes. Let us introduce you to Mary Jaensch." I go in and I sit in the office with Mary and we immediately hit it off. It's just one of those things that happens sometimes in friendship. Less often, I think, in business where there was just a natural chemistry.
I went home and I said to my husband, "I really like to work at a place where a person of Mary's caliber works." They didn't tell her that I was interviewing for a job and I assumed when I said, "Do women work here?" That they would introduce me to a woman who actually worked at the place I was interviewing.
Turns out she was just a freelancer. So I took the job partially based on the fact that I wanted to work with her and we wound up working closely together, as part of that agency, for two years before we went off on our own and built a successful partnership and business for the last very many years.
For me I think that the fundamental reason that our partnership has been successful. When I say "successful: I mean we've enjoyed it, we've grown businesses together, and we've accomplished some of our professional and personal goals . . . Is because we have very common values. We respect each others choices. When your business partner knows more about your daily activities than probably even your family, you need to have real trust and real openness.
The other piece is, our minds work in different ways. So the experience of building ideas together is really energizing for me. She tends to be visual. I tend to be more linear. When we put the combination together we get output that, I think, is greater than either of us probably would have come up with on our own. I continue to have that experience.
We migrated into another business. We went from consulting into a venture-backed female sexual health business. It never occurred to us to say, "Will our relationship translate into an entirely different environment?" Because we have those fundamental things in common.
One of the things that's nice about having a partner for 15 years is that you see yourself evolve and grow both as a person and a professional. So Mary is 13 years older than I am and she had kids before I did. They were well into their high-school years when we met. I had never thought about being an entrepreneur, seriously, until I met Mary.
One of the things that she said to me that was so compelling is she had a very clear mission about how she wanted to live and how her work was going to fit into her life. That has really informed the motto that we have.
So for any business that Mary and I are in, we have a couple of core principles which is, we do work we like with people that we like. When one of those balances is off, we are willing to raise our hand and say, "Houston, we have a problem." It is rare that we've had to part ways with a client at our suggestion, but we've done it because life's too short. We've been at this a long time. I'm not suggesting for one minute that every moment of work is fun. But if you're fundamentally working at things that you're interested in, with people who you share things in common with, that's great.
I really want to distinguish people who you like working with, from friendship. Not all these business relationships don't evolve into friendships. Some tiptoe, some go over the line, but there are some fundamental characteristics that we just require when we're working with someone. I have some hard and fast rules and there's not that much in life that's hard and fast. Don't lie, don't mislead, don't say one thing and do another.
So we really try to find clients, and over the years have built a really wonderful and robust client base, that shares those values. In the circumstances where we haven't been so lucky, it's a much more painful process.
Mary and my skills overlap in a lot of areas. I think we both focus on understanding what the insights are that will drive a client's growth. So whether that's a consumer, a customer, a physician, a health plan – that's where we really focus. Mary is very good at envisioning the future. I would say that's one of her strengths.
I'm extremely good at building the relationships and identifying opportunities for additional work, so we can build our future. So those are the two, I would say, most discrete areas. In many, many ways we're both very analytical, we both love data, we both are steeped in the categories in which we work, pharmaceutical, health and beauty, consumer products. We both have a real intellectual curiosity.
What's interesting is Mary loves the whole process of finding the answer. I love the moment when we've figured out the answer, and then the rest is coasting for me because I've gotten it and the puzzle has come together for me. Mary likes spending more time in the puzzle and I like more time at the end of the puzzle.