How to Put an End to Power Struggles With Your Cofounder

November 14, 2016

9:15 am

Cofounders are bound to have disagreements. The startup world is filled with dozens of twists and turns that can be difficult to manage with a partner. But fighting never gets anything accomplished. It’s how you each work to solve them that matters when it comes to success.

Power struggles can arise in any relationship and in any environment. When it comes to running a business with a cofounder, power struggles can range from choosing a carpet for the new office to making decisions about selling the company. Equipping yourself with ways to manage power struggles is the best way to avoid negatively impacting your business and your employees.

You need to go back to the basics to successfully overcome power struggles. Here are four tips that have helped cofounders overcome them, from the simplest to the most complex.

Define Roles

One of the biggest misconceptions that business owners have is the belief that every decision will be made in partnership. While equity is important when dealing with business matters, it’s not always the most efficient way to make decisions. Joint decisions are the ideal, not the norm. However, decisions still have to be made.

Rather than thinking every decision will be made in joint agreement, decide early on who will be responsible for running different parts of the business. Whether it’s running operations and leading innovation or being in charge of financials, being accountable to each other for these areas will help you make the best decisions.

By defining roles, you create a framework that allows each party to exercise power. Leverage each of your strengths and decide who will be responsible for making decisions about different aspects of the business. This way, when a power struggle arises, the final word rests with the cofounder responsible for that area of the business.

Visualize Your Goals

More often than not, a power struggle is kindled by misunderstandings. Rather than assuming your cofounder understands your rationale, make it clear to them. By visualizing what the decision really means, your cofounder will be more open to listening and much more comfortable with the final decision.

When painting a picture of the decision, think both short term and long term. Seeing how your decision will impact the business can help your partner warm up to the idea. It can also help you discover things you may not have considered before.

Don’t Rush Anything

Sometimes the hardest thing in business is to take it slow. If possible, don’t rush the decision-making process. If you and your cofounder are not seeing eye to eye, rushing will only increase the tension. Instead, set a timeframe to review the decision individually and agree to come back to the issue later.

Allowing for time in between can de-escalate the struggle and help both of you give the decision ample attention.

Seek Counsel

When all else fails, reach out to a trusted advisor, be it a friend, a coach or a family member. Having an impartial party weigh in on both of your arguments can add clarity. That third set of eyes can help you see beyond just being right. They can identify issues that may have been blown out of proportion and give you a fresh perspective.

Being in the business can sometimes cloud your own decision-making. When seeking counsel, be sure to agree on accepting the outcome ahead of time to avoid further problems.

Keep Your Eyes on the Business

Whenever you find yourself frustrated that your cofounder doesn’t see things the way you do, take a step back and make sure you’re not fueling a power struggle. Early on, identify a way to deal with issues that might come up.

As a last piece of advice, be sure to focus on the business. Don’t lose sight of what’s best for your business just because you want to come out on top.

Photo: Flickr / Bernd Zube

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