Co-founder conflict is a phenomenon that happens to almost every startup. It can be hard to spot sometimes, especially when you are one of the co-founders mixed up in the situation. Though, if one isn’t careful, disputes between co-founders can kill a startup.
The obvious advice would be to avoid conflict by taking certain steps, like team building and ensuring clear communication. However, you are probably not here to read how to prevent it, as the title implies that you are already experiencing conflict within the startup or business. If this is you and want to move forward, then there are various ways in which you can approach disputes and conflicts.
Sometimes it can be hard to identify if there truly is any conflict or if you are just imagining it. To find out if you are experiencing conflict, truthfully answer these questions with a simple yes or no.
- Are you avoiding your co-founders – whether at functions or in the office halls?
- Are you spending less time with each other outside of office hours?
- Are you only communicating with one another because you are forced to, due to the nature of your work?
If you have answered yes to these questions, chances are that you are experiencing conflict and neither of you want to address it. So, you may want to consider following these steps to resolve the possible dispute that you are experiencing.
Identify the conflict
Assuming that you have answered the above questions with yes, you are reading further to find out how you can solve the conflict that you are experiencing.
The first move is to identify the conflict that you are having. This might not always be clear, as many experiences may have been had between you and your co-founder. To identify the conflict might not happen quickly and can even take a few days. However, once you have identified the conflict, it will become easier to solve.
One way of identifying the conflict is to think back on what was said and done. Try and pinpoint a certain point in time where you stopped communicating freely to your co-founder. This can assist in identifying what caused the conflict. Another obvious piece of advice is to approach your co-founder with a ‘we’ attitude and ask them directly.
Face the conflict
Once you have identified the cause of conflict, it becomes much easier to solve it. Especially if the root cause is revealed. Once you have established the issue, you can then approach your co-founder and ask about the conflict that has been looming.
The best is to never point fingers and place blame. This will for sure cause your co-founder to retract or will cause a bigger, uglier dispute. Therefore, using a phrase such as “I have been sensing some tension between us, how can we resolve this?” will keep your co-founder calm.
You might not be the saint in the relationship. Meaning that you might be the root cause of the problem. And even if you are not, listening to what your partner has to say will show them that you respect their feelings and that you truly are trying to resolve the issue.
Do not interrupt your partner, even if you want to defend yourself. Make mental notes as they express their grievances and address them once you have a turn to speak. There is nothing worse than someone who asks for your opinion but doesn’t allow you to finish your thoughts.
Decide on a solution, together
Just like you decided on a business plan and marketing strategy together, so will you have to come up with a solution. It is clear that you can work well together, or the startup would not have been a reality.
Once all your cards are on the table, address each one with care and decide how the conflict will be resolved. This will ensure that everyone is happy and included. It will also show dedication to the relationship and the business.
Having a business with your best friend can be amazing, until the business comes in the way and creates conflict. There is nothing worse than having a growing company and leaders that don’t talk to one another. Remember that you and your co-founder(s) will always be the parents of your startup. After all, you wouldn’t want to walk away from people who have become like family.