The One Quality that Makes or Breaks a Founding Team

And it’s not diversity.

Photo by Matt Chesin on Unsplash

Your responsibilities as a founder or co-founder vary greatly. Pitching VCs is pretty common. Scrolling Twitter to find growth hacks — crucial. Maybe some cold emailing, if you’ve got your sales act together. And occasionally, you might even be in charge of some actual innovation. Imagine that. But there are also other duties. Duties that make you question whether or not you should’ve just accepted that job offer with healthcare that you got in your senior year of college. You know, duties like relinquishing your social life. General suffering. Taking out the trash. Insulting the intelligence of your teammates.

Wait, what? What was that last one? Yes, you read that right. Look, we’re all tired. All the time. It’s a startup. Being tired is kind of our job. And exhaustion doesn’t lend itself well to decision-making. There was this one time I had to sit here, aghast, as my teammate explained — un-ironically — why we should put all our service code in one repository. He was advocating for a monorepo. If you don’t get why that’s a big deal, here’s an analogy. Say you have a dumpster. It’s full of trash. Now, you throw a molotov cocktail inside it. Now, the dumpster is on fire. And that’s a monorepo.

Needless to say, I had to shoot that idea behind the barn. Immediately. I was working with the confounded repositories every day, too. And I’ll start using Java before I use a monorepo. Preposterous. That being said, insulting your teammates to get your way isn’t a viable long-term strategy. After all, it only works a few times. Beyond that, they think you’re just being funny. And they don’t take you seriously, anymore. So you have to come up with different ways to tell them that their ideas suck.

Which got me thinking about respect. I’ve often heard business being compared to marriage. “Only enter into a business partnership with someone you’d marry.” When I was younger, I took that one a little too literally. I was like, “What does being a six-foot-five Scandinavian bikini model have to do with running a business?” But now, I see what they meant. It’s all about mutual respect.

You’ve got to respect what each person brings to the table. The skillsets they offer. The perspectives they’re uniquely qualified to present. That’s what makes or breaks a founding team. Because the ability to leverage the full extent of each person’s abilities arms you with an enormous advantage. Most teams can’t work as a team. If yours can, you’re ahead of the game.

Trading bot engineer, songwriter, sponsor of artists. <mika@myika.co>

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