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How to avoid founding team collisions (7 tips from experience)

Avoid unnecessary collision and work as a team

Yesterday, I read a great article by Tony Deller here on Medium which touched upon the problems that can occur when founders collide.

I have personally made the experience that it is nearly inevitable that founding teams will collide. As in any longterm relationship, it is actually a very natural thing to do (you can read my comments to his article in the post below).

For over a decade, I’ve had my fair share working with and in founding teams at: GANDT Ventures (2015-present), Venture Star’s MIFLORA (sold to Blume2000 in 2017), Rocket Internet’s Westwing Home & Living and C-Date (one of Europe’s largest dating sites).

Of course each and every company is different, so is the founding team setup. But you definitely live and learn…

The last few years I have been working along the following “set of rules” to avoid unnecessary collisions within founding teams that I am in and work with.

When you are working in a small organization, or you are part of a founding team, I am sure that these will help you too.

“Complementary skill sets and trust supply the necessary foundation to run a successful business”

Seven tips

Founders are a special breed of people.

They are willing to take risk and generally try to ignore boundaries to reach their goals. These are great trades that you need to change the status quo and do things differently from traditional organizations.

“This also implies that you need to let them work, differently.”

Founders need their independence to thrive. They need space to breath and enough freedom to take their own decisions. This is how you make sure that they can and will.

What you and your founding team need to do to avoid unnecessary collisions?

  1. Create a common vision. Everyone on the management (founding-)team needs to know exactly where everyone wants the company to be in the mid- to longrun. A common goal will help each and every contributor put their role within the team into perspective.
  2. Set clear milestones for each department (founder). Here it is important that the founders (or teamleads) proactively define their own goals and get the buy-in from the other management team members.
  3. Leave each other alone to work. There is nothing more annoying than having one of your fellow founders breath down your neck. You’ll need your own space and time to get your things done.
  4. Set up fixed touch points that provide each founder with a platform to stress their concerns and share their experiences.
  5. Proactively ask for help when you need it. Don’t wait until your deadlines are over. If you want to succeed, you will need to work as a team. If you run into difficulties, ask your peers and fellow founders for input and advice.
  6. Support each other by providing your peers with insights from your network. Use your network of contacts to provide your fellow founders with the necessary mentoring that could benefit the greater good.
  7. Hierarchy is not a bad word at all. It describes clear communication lines and responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to write down your areas of responsibility and clear reporting lines. Even amongst each other.

Don’t intervene and micro manage each other

One more piece of advice that can really help your team work well. This is what I try to do within my teams when I see that my founding peers are struggling and need additional support:

“Find strong mentors for the founders and key members on your team”

Mentoring, providing support and ideas are the way to move forward. You don’t want to intervene in your fellow co-founders line of work. You have your own tasks and responsibilities.

But help out by talking about your full company’s challenges to others. You will get input from people who might be able to tutor and mentor you and your peers.

Trust me, you will need all the help you can get if you want to make this work.

It all boils down to this

You want to have people around you who can and will take responsibility for their actions. Together you must create an environment in which you are able to do so.

When you feel that you have started to micro manage each other, it is time for an organizational intervention. Go through the checklist above to make sure that you are all on the same page — and try again.

You need to continue to work on the relationship with your fellow founders — just as you would in any other relationship. Don’t be afraid of the collision that will happen, but make sure it happens for the right reason.

Call to action

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Have a great day, Remco

Photo by Olga Guryanova on Unsplash

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Remco Livain

Remco Livain

Dutch Digital Entrepreneur. Love to share thoughts on innovation and digitalization (ceo @gandt ventures) - writer @thestartup