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What should never be compromised when picking a co-founder

When picking a co-founder for your company, there are key factors that should never be compromised, regardless of your industry.

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picking a cofounder

Setting Yourself (and Your Co-founder) Up For Success

There are many articles online that discuss what an entrepreneur should look for in a co-founder. One of the leading references on this was published on Venture Hacks a few years ago. The truth is that there are rarely scenarios that come together where every piece of these criteria fit together perfectly. Regardless, the aforementioned article and many like it are helpful guides as an entrepreneur picks a founding team.

An entrepreneur might not be able to check every box on the wish list, but there are a few criteria that I believe should not be compromised when picking a co-founder and setting up a company with them. This article is about these “must haves.”

Two is the Magic Number

The correct number of co-founders is two. A founding team should be two partners who 1) work well together, 2) compliment each other and 3) share a vision. All three components of the two-person team are important.

You have to be able to work long hours, work quickly, take and mitigate risks, make hard decisions, and more with this person. You need a truly strong working relationship that will remain strong in a very dynamic work setting. You’ll have to work together intensely at times and totally independently at other times; you’ll have to meet a one-hour deadline one day while having to plan strategically for several quarters down the road the next.

You have to have skills and experience that compliment each other, and trust in each other’s abilities. While you will be working together, learning from each other and sharing a lot of responsibility, at the end of the day it should be obvious which partner will take the lead on each aspect of the business, and on opportunities and challenges that arise. If you and your partner both believe that you each should be leading the investor outreach or the product development effort, you’re probably not a good pairing.

You have to share a vision for the product and the company trajectory. It is important that this symmetry exists not just for launch but also through growth and the eventual long-term plan. You don’t want a partner who envisions being in a lifestyle business if your goal is to sell in 3-5 years!

Finding the right combination of two is the primary challenge, but it really should be limited to two. Any more and politics starts coming into play, personal interest (from one or more parties) may start to supersede the company’s interest and both work and planning will likely become inefficient.

Founders should bring in additional skill and experience to the management team, though, as time, money and opportunity permit. While not equity or title equals, these additions are vital members of the team and should be treated (and made to feel) like owners.

Shared Ethics and Philosophy

Ethics are the most important element in a partnership. A hard truth is that when money is a factor – especially when times get either very good or very bad – many people suspend their morals and opt of self-preservation (or self-gratification). You have to find someone who will keep promises, stay ethical and fulfill commitment throughout. Lawyers will cringe at this next statement, but a legal contract is only as good as the men and women who sign it. This is especially true in a start-up when finances are scarce. Simply put, there is nothing to “go after” if a partner fails to comply with an agreement.

Talk about ethics with your potential partner. You most definitely have to put a legal contract together governing your relationship and company ownership, but it is equally important to make sure you both understand the moral bond that is going to be formed, and that you both embrace it. Look each other in the eye and make a commitment to uphold your agreement no matter what happens.

Equality

Most issues between partners arise due to unequal treatment. This could be as practical as financial disparity or as emotional as jealousy over power and notoriety (and it is often both). Knowing this up front, co-founders should set up the corporate structure and compensation packages to be equal. This is not always easy, as one founder may have been involved longer, hold the IP/patents, etc. I suggest that you find a way to make it happen (and find a partner who is able to make it happen with you).

Ideally, two co-founders will have equal equity in the company, equal voting rights, equal representation on the board, and equal pay (I would even go as far as putting in an agreement that the co-founders will always have an equal compensation package). One partner may have to “buy in” to get this equal partnership. If this is not possible, perhaps that co-founder buys in by taking no salary (or a reduced salary) for a significant period of time (after which the compensation would revert to the equal status mentioned above).

There are some situations where equity (or other) equality is not possible. This can be ok. Set up the relationship so that it is equal as possible – both in perception and reality. Even if this means one party is generous at the outset, equality will pay dividends in the long run. I guarantee that more money has been lost by damage caused by partners clashing than by a business owner being generous with his partner (or generous with employees in general).

Parting Shot

Choose your partner wisely. Trust them and design a truly equal relationship. Be generous with the people who are in a position to impact and grow your business. That recipe will give you your best shot at success.

Hoyt David Morgan is an entrepreneur, angel investor and business strategy leader. He is an investor and/or adviser to a handful of exciting and high growth companies, and has been a part of several high-value exits. He is passionate about customer experience, smart business and helping innovative companies grow... and sailing.

Business Entrepreneur

15 tips to spot a toxic work environment when interviewing

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Interviewing can be tricky, but this new infographic will help you look for signs of toxicity before, during, and after the interview.

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Person in an interview

When we’re in the process of job hunting, we’re typically looking because we need a change, for multiple reasons. Any interview sparks hope. Because we’re sometimes so willing to make that change, we often put our blinders on in the hopes that whatever comes is the perfect opportunity for us.

With those blinders, however, it can be common to miss some red flags that tell you what you really need to know about the job you may be applying or interviewing for. Luckily, Resume.io is here to help.

They have developed 15 warning signs in their infographic: How to Spot a Toxic Work Environment Before You Take the Job. Let’s dive in and take a look at these.

First, the preparation before the interview. Red flags can shop up from the get-go. Here’s what to look out for before you even meet face-to-face (or over the phone/Zoom).

  1. Vague job description: If there is nothing substantial about the description of the job itself and only buzzwords like “team player,” be on alert.
  2. Negative Glassdoor reviews: These reviews on company culture are worth taking into account. If multiple people have a recurring issue, it’s something to be aware of.
  3. Arranging an interview is taking forever: If they keep you waiting, it’s typically a sign of disorganization. This may not always be the case, but pay attention to how they’re respecting you and your time.
  4. Your arrival comes as a surprise to them: Again, disorganization. This is also displaying a lack of communication in the company.
  5. The interview starts late: See the last sentence of #3. Not only are they disrespecting your time, but they’re displaying a lack of time management.

Now, for the high-pressure situation: During the interview. Here’s what you need to be keeping an eye on (while simultaneously listing your strengths and weaknesses, of course)

  1. Unpreparedness: If the interviewer is scattered and not prepared for your conversation, this may be a sign that they don’t fully understand the tasks and expectations for the job.
  2. Doesn’t get into your skill set: If they don’t ask about your skills, how can they know what you’re bringing to the table?
  3. Rudeness: If the interviewer is rude throughout the interview or is authoritative (either to you or to a panel who may be present,) be on alert. This is just a sign of what’s to come.
  4. Uncommunicative about company values: If it’s different from what’s on their website or they seem spacey about company values, this is a red flag.
  5. Your questions aren’t being answered: If they’re avoiding answering your questions, they may be hiding an aspect of the job – or the company – that they don’t want to reveal.

Finally, the waiting game. Once the interview is complete, here are some less-than-good things to be on the lookout for. Keep in mind that some of these may be hard to gauge seeing that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and many companies haven’t returned to their offices yet:

  1. Brief interview: If the interview was too short, they are either desperate or have already filled the position. Either way, bad.
  2. Quiet workplace: This may be a sign of a lack of teamwork or a tense environment.
  3. No tour: If you don’t get to see the office, again, they may be hiding something.
  4. Offer on the day of interview: Not giving you time to think may be a sign of desperation.
  5. Leaving you waiting: Again, if they leave you waiting on an answer like they did with scheduling, it’s a sign of disorganization and disrespect.

While one of these 15 things happening doesn’t necessarily mean the job is a bust, a few of these things happening may be an indicator to look elsewhere.

 

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Business Entrepreneur

This startup makes managing remote internships easier for all

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Internships during COVID are tough to manage for many employers, but Symba aims to present a unique solution.

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Internships could be becoming easier to facilitate remotely, wherever you are.

Internships are among the innumerable practices disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some might argue that the loss of the corporate version of hazing that defines many internships is not something to be mourned. But the fact remains that internships are crucial for both employers and employees. Fortunately, a company called Symba might have a solution: Remote internships.

It’s a simple, intuitive solution for the times. That’s why big-name industries like Robinhood and Genentech are turning to Symba for help in constructing their own digital internship platforms.

Symba is, in and of itself, akin to any employee management system. Prospective employees sign into their Symba account via the landing page of the company for whom they are interning, after which point they are able to review their workload for the day. They can also see communications, feedback, other profiles, group projects, and more; they can even access onboarding resources and tutorials for the company in case they get lost along the way.

The key difference between Symba and other management tools—such as Slack—is that Symba was built from the ground up to facilitate actionable experience for interns at little to no detriment to the company in question. This means that interns have a consistent onboarding, collaborative, and working experience across the board—regardless of which company they’re representing at the time.

Symba even has a five-star ranking system that allows employers to create and quantify areas of proficiency at their discretion. For example, if an intern’s roles include following up with clients via email or scheduling meetings, an employer could quickly create categories for these tasks and rate the intern’s work on the aforementioned scale. Interns are also able to ask for feedback if they aren’t receiving it.

While Symba doesn’t facilitate communications between interns, it does include Slack integration for the purposes of collaboration and correspondence as needed.

On the managerial side, employers can do everything from the previously mentioned rating to delegating tasks and reviewing reports. All data is saved in Symba’s interface so that employers have equal access to information that might inspire a hiring.

While it’s possible that Symba will struggle to maintain relevance during non-internship months, the fact remains that it is an exceptionally viable solution to an otherwise finicky problem during these trying times—and some employers may even find it viable enough to continue using it post-pandemic.

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Business Entrepreneur

Zen, please: Demand for mental health services surges during pandemic

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) 2020 has been an exceptionally hard year for many on a mental front. How has COVID-19 changed the mental health landscape?

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Man leaning against tree, affected by mental health.

As the pandemic stretches on, it continues to affect everything from jobs to plastic bags, but one major shift has come with mental health. According to the National Council for Mental Health, while demand for mental health services is up 52%, the capacity of mental health organizations have actually diminished. So…what does this mean?

Mental health startups get a boost

From tele-health to mindfulness apps, venture capital investments for mental health startups have already surpassed what was earned in 2019. And it makes sense; as more people are isolated for long stretches of time, there has become a greater demand for digital mental wellness services.

With COVID-19 predicted to spike again in the coming months, combined with shorter spans of daylight and less welcoming weather, the desire for these sorts of businesses isn’t likely to fade. If you have an idea for a neat app or website to help with mental well-being in some way, now is prime time to release it.

Companies increase mental health options

As the pandemic rages on, many companies have started to partner with mental health solutions for their employees. For instance, Starbucks has started offering free therapy sessions to employees through the mental wellness provider Lyra, and Zoom began to offer mental health seminars.

Of course, while smaller companies might not have the means to provide specific therapy, many companies have gotten creative with how they’re looking out for employees’ mental and emotional well-being. From providing virtual meditation sessions, to increasing self-managed leave, to connecting employees through book clubs or happy hours, there are a variety of ways that any company can help employees manage their psyche during these difficult times.

Resources are more accessible

Although therapy and similar apps do cost money (many apps include a monthly fee for the services provided), there are plenty of low cost alternatives available for those having a hard time. For example, many sites are offering free trials to services. There are also plenty of free or low-cost apps available to help you do anything from track your moods to manage your breathing. Or check out YouTube for videos to help with yoga or meditation.

While these resources are not a replacement for medication or talk therapy, they can help mediate some of the increased strain on our mental state that many of us are feeling right now.

In case of an emergency, there is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available by phone call or chat 24 hours a day. If you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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