Business partnerships are pseudo-marriages, and finding a cofounder who complements you can be as grueling as dating. However, the relationship between partners can be the deciding factor in a startup’s success. We credit four philosophies for our success and growth.
Don’t cofound with friends
We met in a business setting before becoming friends. Jeff was an intern at a software development company where Jim was a leader. By meeting in a professional manner first, we built a foundation on respect before becoming close friends. We have seen startups split because cofounders were friends first and took advantage of the friendship in business dealings. Now, our families vacation together, we go to Bears games and some weeks we talk more with each other than our spouses. However, mutual respect has always been the basis of our friendship.
Do have similar spending habits
Before we formed a startup together, we looked at how we both spent money personally. While there is arguably no right or wrong way to spend money, partners need to spend it in a similar way. Business partnerships break up over money issues just like marriages do. Since we both spend frugally, we don’t fight about finances.
Don’t be a carbon copy of your partner
Having a cofounder who complements your skills increases your competencies within the partnership. If both founders have the same experience and specialties, capability gaps will exist. Jeff had the technology brains, great ideas and existing clientele; Jim had the capital, management experience and professional network to start our company on a sound footing. Our mutual skill sets cover all the bases needed for our firm.
Do factor in morals
We had both been burned at past companies that did not treat their employees in a fair way, so it was important that we both had the same moral standards to run the company in an agreeable way. If there was one French fry left between us at the end of lunch, we would both push it to the other guy. We had no hesitations joining together in business.
Since our foundation was built on these four principles, all it took was a walk around the park and a handshake for us to form our 50/50 partnership. Seventeen years later, we haven’t changed a thing.
Jeff Scheper and Jim Lagattuta are the co-founders of Prescient Solutions, a Chicago-based IT outsourcing firm providing CIO-level advisory support and on-site IT services to organizations and government entities.