People are in a constant state of flux. They are constantly trying new things and evolving who they are. That is why relationships are so terrifying and exhilarating. You are building a bond with another human who is not going to be the same person in 2 years, let alone 10 years. That is also part of the fun, you do not know where they are going and you get to be a part of that journey.
Change is extra terrifying when it impacts a business partnership. Not only are co-founders linked financially, but they also have a family of employees and clients. If the co-founder relationship disintegrates it affects everyone. When my business partnership disintegrated it resulted in the sale of the business and everyone losing their job. That outcome is not as rare as you would hope.
You are probably nodding your head if you have gone through something similar with a spouse or friend. For those who haven’t experienced this, you might be thinking these are ridiculous examples that are easy to solve. What you are missing is your emotional reaction to the question “who is this person I thought I knew?”. You will be stunned at how a subtle change that happens over a long period in you and someone else can lead to big problems in a relationship. That is why it is so important to groom your co-founder relationship and stay connected as you both evolve.
What might this personal crisis look like, and how would it affect the business?
We like to pretend that business and personal are separated by a big barrier but that isn’t true. It is usually the personal side that causes the most turmoil in a business partnership. When you are going through a personal crisis it is hard to get perspective and often you flail about blindly trying to escape. If your co-founder is going through a personal crisis, you are going to be in the wake of that flailing and it will smack you and the business in the face. Responding in the right way can be very hard, if not impossible.
Your co-founder and you are joined at the hip, now for the good news.. Building a business with someone else is fun! It isn’t all doom and gloom :). I think you should enter into a business partnership with your eyes open. There is always a risk that your co-founder relationship will break down. That is why it is so important to invest in the co-founder relationship and keep it groomed. You have to commit to growing with each other as you both evolve.
I created this site to help co-founders have stronger relationships because I do not want to see another partnership end like the one I was in. Can you help the site by answering a few questions? Or, would you like to write a post? Feel free to contact me.