When you’re building something from scratch, it cannot be overstated how important it is to trust the people building alongside you. Without trust, the relationship will falter, making it nearly impossible to create a sustainably successful company, let alone a positive culture for your employees.
Early on, we got a lot of pushback about operating as co-CEOs. Questions arose: Will decisions be bogged down? Who is responsible for what? Ultimately, who is accountable?
Our response has been that for the really big decisions, we’re able to explore multiple perspectives and really press each other’s ideas, which leads to far superior outcomes than those made in an echo chamber without checks and balances.
For those decisions that need an immediate response, when time for discussion isn’t possible, trust is again critical. We know we can make that call in the moment, whenever needed, with one another’s support.
Complementary skills and expertise
Ideally, you find a partner who complements your skill set and brings something different to the table.
This has been one of the trickier aspects for Noah and me, as we are quite similar. We found that having a clear delineation of roles is important. He covers more of the quantitative aspects of our product and business, while I cover more of the qualitative.
Overlapping skills can also be helpful when we have two meetings that require a CEO. Having two of us allows our CEOs to literally be in two places at once. For example, one of us can meet with an investor while the other meets with a client. As we open new offices, one of us can be dealing with the new space while the other keeps things moving at headquarters.
Shared vision and shared values
You and your partner need to be aligned on all major decisions as it relates to your company. What kind of people do you want to hire? What kind of product do you want to build? What kind of culture do you want to cultivate?
To achieve this synergy, you need to like working with this person, as you’ll be spending more time with him or her than anyone else in your life. Communication is paramount between co-founders, and it takes a real relationship to achieve that.
Being in the foxhole
It’s really easy to share in the good times, but it’s more important to be able to successfully navigate the tough times, of which there will be many.
This is a tricky area when working with a friend, which is why this person needs to be someone you can get through lows with and know that the friend aspect of your relationship will always be there, even when it may be difficult to see it in the moment. When you have disagreements at work, it’s really hard to separate that from the personal side of your relationship.
While it isn’t easy, it makes the low times far less lonely and the wins that much more special. Noah and I have been incredibly fortunate to have found a similar friendship with Cesar, and it’s impossible for us to imagine having partners that we only relate to on a business level.
There’s no blueprint to creating a successful company, and it is an incredibly tough road. But there are few things more important than finding the right people to ride with.