It’s one of the most important questions an entrepreneur faces: “Should I have a co-founder, or fly solo?”
I had the pleasure of welcoming back Ian Whitworth on my podcast again recently.
Ian and I spoke about the benefits of a co-founder, and he outlined why he thinks having one makes for a better business and experience.
How To Choose A Co-Founder: Don’t Be Good at The Same Thing
Ian and his co-founder used to work together before they decided to run their own place:
“It works really well because we are both quite shit at what the other one does. I’m sort of good at sales and marketing and so forth, he’s really good at operational stuff. I am hopeless at operational technical stuff. So if I got involved with that it would just ruin the business. His worst nightmare is a night of cocktail networking or having to get up at an awards night and make a speech — he would just rather die than do that. So we both sit there just going: ‘Oh God I’m so glad I don’t have to do what you do!’ It’s really nice.“
Ian shed some light on the attributes of a good co-founder:
“There are quite a few characteristics but the main one is charisma which is not movie-star charisma, but just the ability to get people excited so that people look to them for leadership. We have had business partners before who have known what they were doing technically. But people sort of didn’t really want to follow them all that much and it just didn’t work out. So basically people we like, people we can trust — the people who we know will not just run amuck and spend all our money on expensive chairs or whatever. As you sometimes get.”
Ian also spoke about the benefits a co-founder brings to a business and the life of an entrepreneur:
“You’ve got a posse! Businesses are exciting, you get a commercial opportunity, it’s like: “There’s an exciting opportunity coming up what are we going to do!?” So you talk about at night on the phone and go: “What shall we do?” And you bat the ideas back and forth and I think you just come up with better ideas when there’s a group of you.“
Ian says celebrating the big wins in business are much better when you have co-founders:
“It’s much more exciting. It’s a real sort of celebratory vibe — you can tell your family and friends about it but they kind of don’t quite understand it perhaps as much as you do. So if you’re a sole business owner and you have a big commercial win, you’re kind of Major Tom up there and your spaceship floating around! You have a celebratory extra protein pill and five minutes later you go back to spaceship maintenance cause its kind of harder to tell your staff: “Hey! I had a massive win that might make me a shit tonne of money!” It’s not the same for them.”
Having A Co-Founder Leads to Better Business Ideas
“You also have better ideas. Business owners also tell it to you straight — if you have good ideas and bad ideas, (it) kind of sands the rough edges off your ideas.“
You Need People To Tell You Your Ideas are Bad
“Owning your own business is a bit like being a third world dictator. It’s great if you’re in the reflector aviators and the jacket with the epaulets with the medals all over it and you can just do whatever the hell pops into your mind. But the reality is that without people to say: “That’s a shit idea”, your business will become worse. I kind of prefer the parliamentary democracy model of decision making where if you’ve got to persuade a group of other people that your idea is good. Because the idea of actually saying an idea out loud and persuading other people that’s good actually makes that idea better.”
Does this change your thoughts about having a co-founder?