Growth · Entrepreneurship

How do you know what you need: a cofounder or senior employee?

Naomi Fein Founder & CEO

October 8th, 2016

We're a engagement and communication constancy based in Ireland. Been doing well for the last (almost) 4 years, 
got some great clients (Qualcomm, Microsoft, Stryker, Intel, Google...) 
I've built a great junior team who does the magic behind the scenes, and now we have an amazing opportunity to make a leap into productising some of our services. 

I know I can't do it all by myself without a real partner, to share the load of management, be the face of the company and challenge my thinking.. I can see the gaps of my own knowledge (it's my first company) and my skills (I'm creative free thinker, not very methodological..) 

From your experience, am I looking for someone to be a co-founder or a senior manager?
What should inform my decision? 
Is it even an "either or" question?

would love to know your thought!

Naomi Fein Founder & CEO

October 9th, 2016

Jennifer, thanks so much for the response. It makes so much sense. 
I think it's an idea I was attached to, that I could find everything I need in one person (which doesn't even work in romantic relationships!) 
I think you hit the point. Multiple people, and some I already even have! 

1) "a partner to share the load of management." - My team and I have been discussing this for a while, and we are planed to have another discussion on Monday, looking at gaps. From what been discussed so far it might be another business development person that can bring and maintain new relationships with our clients. 

2) "be the face of the company", reading what you wrote, I think I might actually have the person in my team. And I think it's more about sharing it than me phasing out. He is a natural, very similar experience to me, and very enthusiastic to become part of our team...

3) "someone to challenge my thinking" - even just sharing my thoughts here worked magic. 
I already have trusted partners that are willing to challenge me on a regular basis, like my financial advisor, and other friends, maybe I just need to put some structure around it, to make sure I feel supported. 

Thanks again! you made my day :-)

Jennifer Ernst

October 8th, 2016

Naomi -- You are looking for multiple people in a variety of roles. This isn't a marriage. You're not looking for a single partner to share the load. It's a company.  To separate the needs:

1) "a partner to share the load of management." -- Think about a team you'd like to have to execute for the next 12-18 months. Then your first addition should be someone who addresses your most critical need that isn't your strength. If you're 4 years in, they are not a co-founder by definition.

2) "be the face of the company" -- usually the CEO's job. If you aren't comfortable as the face of the company, you can either hire a coach or hire a marcomm person who takes that off your plate. Could also be one of your existing team members with a gift of gab.

3) "someone to challenge my thinking" -- look for mentors outside the company, networks that get you into the presence of more experienced people just to absorb and test ideas.

Laurence Ainsworth Lead High Growth Coach and Trainer

October 11th, 2016

Hi Naomi,

I'd largely agree with Jennifer. I would add that getting a partner or director, is not without significant risk. I have seen many companies fail because co- directors don't have the same vision for the business or because they don't align themselves to the same business culture.

You'd be much better developing your team. Get the best people you can afford and try to buy in people who have experience of the business size you want to become, not where you are now. 

Develop your team! all too often we fall into the trap of writing off existing team members, because we know their limitations, rather than looking to see how their capabilities can be extended.

You'd probably benefit from and "experienced business coach/mentor" someone who has experience of your environment and can show you how to develop. I'm not sure friends necessarily the best resource for this

Best of Luck