Scott Wylie, co-founder of payments startup PayHere, shares his top tips for maintaining a healthy and productive co-founder relationship
Vision and exit strategy
Make sure you’re aligned with each other through constant communication—particularly around the long-term vision of your business. Do you want a lifestyle business? Is the business there to raise investment? Do you need hundreds of staff? But also make sure to talk about life goals, because they so often play an important role in vision and strategy.
Roles and responsibilities
Play to each other’s strengths, but also remember to learn from your co-founder. If they come from, say, a design background and that plays a role in the business, sit down and soak up their expertise. If you can do that while factoring in feedback, you’ll find that you widen your own skillset in no time—which can be really helpful if the co-founder steps away from the business for a meeting or holiday.
Talk about anything and everything. Talk about issues as soon as they come up. If someone has a problem, don’t put it in a drawer and think that it’ll fix itself. Be open and honest at all times. Use a messaging service to keep those lines of communication open. Our biggest piece of advice for other founders is that communication is key to a successful co-founder relationship.
Make life easier by dividing equity equally. Splitting everything down the middle is the best way to avoid arguments and ensure both co-founders are motivated. Of course, just because we do it that way doesn’t mean it should be carved in stone. But we think it’s a useful way to keep things simple.
If you do find yourself butting heads with your co-founder, make sure to settle the disagreement by doing what is best for the business. Take your own opinions out of the equation by drawing up a scoring matrix. Think about how you score each issue and then turn your ideas into metrics. It makes these types of discussion more objective and in turn removes the emotion from the situation. By quantifying your decision making, you can rest assured it’s probably the best thing for the business.
Get a mentor. Most startup founders catch up with mentors every couple of weeks. Wherever possible make sure you’re both on that call. Discuss what you’ve done since the last time you spoke and then get feedback at that stage. Being able to explain why you made a decision is really important in mentor meetings—and again the scoring matrix can help you justify why you went down a certain route. Before making any major changes, always get some kind of external feedback. Mentor support is a really useful tool for keeping the co-founder relationship positive and on the right track.