How To Find a Co-Founder with the CEO of Havenly

Lee Mayer, CEO of Havenly

We’ve all heard it before. “Don’t start a company with your friends”. “Don’t bring your personal relationships into your professional career.” “It’s not personal, it’ just business.” The old adage holds true in the sense that you shouldn’t choose co-founders based on convenience. Finding the right co-founder(s) is a careful and thoughtful process. Many even compare it to marriage. The co-founder relationship is difficult to maintain and can quickly become unhealthy when things aren’t going great, so it would make sense to keep your friends and family on the outside. That way, when things go to shit, you don’t have to cut ties with those you love most.

Lee Mayer of Havenly shatters this myth. Her online interior design marketplace has disrupted an entire industry, generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue annually, and makes decorating your home as easy as clicking a few buttons. Not to mention, she’s done all of this alongside her little sister, Emily, who was recently named one of Forbes 30 Under 30.

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After earning her Bachelors of Science from Columbia and her MBA from Harvard, Lee decided that a typical desk job with a shiny salary and a benefits plan was not the key to her future. During a move from New York City, she and her sister thought “there must be a better way to furnish a new home without having to deal with the burdens and high costs of moving,” so they tied the knot and dove head first into building out their idea.

Finding co-founders is a hard process and should be treated like any other high stakes business decision. Lee chose to start her entrepreneurial journey with her sister, not because it was convenient, but because they both identified a problem, dedicated themselves to solving that problem, and most importantly, had opposite but complementary skill sets.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Lee and hear her experiences on how she and her sister have been able to work so well together.

Let’s break it down.

Starting a company is a ton of work.

This is obvious. Everyone knows that starting a company is no small task but Lee reinforces why it is absolutely necessary to have extra hands. Having someone to share the workload, and also to bounce ideas off of, technically doubles the speed at which you can create whatever you are building.

Please don’t confuse this with hiring as many people as possible as fast as possible to fill small roles. You’re more than likely not running an assembly line here. Once you get to a point in your company where you literally can’t handle another task being thrown on your back, it’s time to find a co-founder. Also, now you know which tasks you’re not able to get to, so find someone who has the complementary skills to complete those neglected jobs.

It might sounds cheesy, but make sure you can get emotional with your co-founder.

Lee identifies the emotional importance of having the right co-founder(s), “so that you know you’re not alone when you’re at your depths, and also there’s someone to high-five when you’re making even the smallest wins.” This relationship is extremely close and intimate, and like any normal relationship, you are going to hit speed bumps. A good co-founder relationship consists of picking each other up when failure strikes and celebrating successes when victory occurs, because at the end of the day, failures and successes are mutual among all who are involved in the journey.

Really ask yourself, “could I cry in front of my co-founder(s)?” “Am I comfortable with my co-founder(s) seeing me have a total emotional breakdown?” “When I do have an emotional breakdown (and you more than likely will), do I believe that my co-founder(s) will understand and pick me up off the ground?” If the answer to any of these questions is “no” your co-founder relationship might not be the match made in heaven that you thought it was.

You need to have multiple perspectives.

Tons of founders and entrepreneurs think they have the perfect vision for what a customer needs or wants, but Lee emphasizes the falsity of this claim. She explains how having the right co-founder(s) gives a founder another set of eyes, or a fresh new lens, on a situation or problem you’re solving. Believing that you know exactly what needs to be built and exactly what a consumer wants will most likely result in a product that will never be used. When you have a co-founder or co-founders that you can trust, then your capacity for great ideas multiplies.

When finding a co-founder who shares the same mission as you, listen carefully to their ideas. If their input is not constantly changing your perspective on your market, it’s probably time to bring in some new ideas. In the case of starting a business, two heads is always better than one.

Don’t reject the idea of hiring those close to you. Your personal relationship to someone has little to do with their capacity to help turn an idea into a booming business. Lee would have been making a huge mistake if she refused to start a business with Emily, just because she was her sister. It could be your mom, dad, brother, sister, best friend, partner, or even your dog. Probably not your dog but you get the point. If you can find someone who is seamless to work with, dedicated to solving the same problem and has the opposite to-do list as you, then don’t hesitate and put a ring on it.

Think you may have found that special someone to start a company with?

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