As Bruce Lee said:
A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.
I’ve made a huge mistake in my business, that is — I never asked myself enough questions that dig deep. Thinking that only hard work will pay off, I simply worked my face off to just pay the bills.
Similarly, when my husband and I co-founded our graphic design business, naturally, we simply took the plunge together, literally no questions asked!
It was not only until about 5 years ago that both of us started to ask deeper questions that truly reflect upon our partnership and ownership of the business.
The more questions you ask, you stand a better chance of hitting the right note. These questions will help you:
- Know if your partnership can grow the business or not
- Avoid giving in to your ego
- Enjoy the journey even through the hard times
- Live the life you’ve always dreamed of
Let’s get started:
1. Where would you like to see yourself go in say 3 years time, 12 months time and 6 months time?
In other words, you have to, first of all, be clear of your own long term and short term goals. Then work out a road map to know if this partnership is a starting point to lead you to your goals or not.
Be very clear with what you want and where this partnership will lead you. If it doesn’t bring you to the right direction even on paper, it’s best to think of alternatives like choosing another co-founder or working on the tasks on your own for the time being.
2. Why do you choose this particular person as your co-founder over the other?
Ask this question 7 times to dig deeper for the answer that’s genuinely from you, not anyone else.
Ask why 7 times and then you will know the truth.
— John Kuypers, a leadership coach
Heck! Ask 10 times if you want, so long you are clear they come from you.
3. Will this partnership support your lifestyle or hinder it?
I started a business so that I have better control with my time and life, not the other way round. So I do encourage you to have such a mindset too. Otherwise, it’s better off being an employee for someone else.
This doesn’t mean you are completely free from work, but it also does not mean your business and co-founder should run your life.
The starting phases of a business may turn your time upside down. But as you progress, you should not get yourself busy without serving your life’s purpose. It shouldn’t be eating into your personal time.
If you share the same belief, have a chat with your potential co-founder to understand if he or she has the same purpose.
4. Are you intending to start a family and when?
Many people advised me against working on my graphic design startup when my first child was about 6 months old. I couldn’t wait, somehow both had to work at the same time.
If you are like me, bent on going all in on both, let your co-founder know your intentions to be fair to him or her. And if he or she agrees to work with you, that’s great! Then it’s time to work out a schedule that works for both sides.
Babies can unintentionally throw you a curveball at times, so know that you can’t plan for everything. At the same time, know that having a baby is not a hindrance to having a business while having a business shouldn’t lead you to neglect your baby.
6. Does it work if your partner-to-be does freelance work for you before committing to a partnership?
Freelance to co-founder can help the two of you learn if both are a good fit — it’s like dating, it’s best to date for some time before getting married. Same in business.
He or she won’t ask more of you or your time because you have to give a salary for the work done. This reduces both your risks and helps both of you understand each other better.
7. What does your gut tell you?
There are receptors to these molecules in your immune system, in your gut and in your heart. So when you say, ‘I have a gut feeling’ or ‘my heart is sad’ or ‘I am bursting with joy,’ you’re not speaking metaphorically. You’re speaking literally.
— Deepak Chopra
Just like a relationship, your potential co-founder may wave money or promises at you. But if you don’t feel right, most likely you are right. If inside you say you want to give it a try, you should go for it.
Take this process as a learning journey.
8. Are both your values aligned?
The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths so strong that it makes the system’s weakness irrelevant.
— Peter Drucker
The both of you may have different skill sets that complement one another. But you can easily hire someone else to do it. Why get a co-founder?
Look for value-based reasons other than skills because if what you think is important is different from your co-founder, both your time together will be spent on persuasion rather than progression.
Have a chat with him or her and you will be able to know if both of you share similar aspirations, beliefs and principles. That’s when you are able to work with together to set shared values for your business and team.
9. What will your potential co-founder do when pressure mounts?
Imagine the worst case scenario where your business is in debt and you find trouble recouping the losses, in the brink of closing shop and bankruptcy.
If your co-founder is like your partner in a relationship. Both of you have to help with each other up through thick and thin. You are ready to go all in and do whatever it takes to be a responsible person to put the pieces back together.
How about your potential co-founder?
This is ownership and it’s not easy when things fall apart, because, with pride, reputation and ego, it’s natural everyone do not wish to take the blame. It’s easy to start things, but it’s hard to finish, and it’s even harder to pick up the pieces.
Find someone whom you know is reliable to plough through such times with you.
Ready to go deep?
Insightful questions can set you up for a lot of success, not just money, but to help you get crystal clear with your inner self and make better decisions. Asking these questions will lead you to find the answers that work best for you.
Get started now!
Appreciate you for reading and sharing 🙂