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Many different areas make you match with your co-founders: trust, mutual esteem, dedication and so on. From what we’ve observed, the biggest factor is your relationship to power (do you absolutely want to be in charge or not) and the way you decide (are you deciding accordingly to your values, to stay efficient…).
In this article, we will dive into the four ways of decision making and what you need to know before choosing the best match.

CEOs and power

We all know people who fight each other over power in bigger corporations. In big teams, power struggles are mundane events. In startups of few people, though, power struggles is the number one reason teams break up. What start-ups need is a product/market fit. Taking extra time to resolve human related issues makes its much harder to focus.

Startups, in terms of day-to-day tasks, can be quite messy. Everyone is doing a bit of everything, there are no real titles and jobs aren’t that different from one another. This poses the risk of entrepreneurial types wanting to take complete charge: this is when power struggles begin. Power is about making decisions. With three co-founders, it should be clear that the CEO has the final word.

We see so many startups with a CEO and a COO, it perfectly underlines this idea. Neither is the assigned decision maker and issues start to emerge as the startup grows. The COO needs execute ideas from the CEO in big companies like Uber, not in startup of three. The CEO absolutely needs to assert their power with charisma. They do need to command and people must understand and accept it.

Some leaders are intrusive (like Elon Musk, Hustler type) while others are less so, softer and more appreciated (like Satya Nadella, Executor type). Whatever the king of leader, taking good care of the team is the best way to ensure long-term success.

When choosing a cofounder, it’s key to be clear about what each one’s position will be in the following months and years. Products will change and so will daily tasks, so CEOs should allow a clear view of what’s coming in terms of internal organisation.

Check which relationship power your cofounders have. Are they micromanaging, do they want to be in charge?

How to decide?

As we understood, some people like to decide and others are more flexible. The way people make decisions can heavily vary as well. We distinguish four different decision making types:

  1. Efficiency: generally making choices in order to be the most efficient towards a goal
  2. Consistency: meticulously verifying if things are proven and verifiable, then making a choice
  3. Values: making choices according to your own values, what you want for yourself and what you believe is good for you
  4. Impact on others: making decisions according to the impact it will have on other people, team, friends

The first two ways, efficiency and consistency, are more rational while the others are more emotional. There are no good or bad choices here, it’s all about teaming up. Two rational people will analyse with facts and are likely to agree. Emotional people are likely to be on the same page as well. But by create a team with only rational or only emotional people, lots of the diversity and different points of view are lost.

The way people decide give them insights on difficulties they may have to work through together. To stay efficient, it’s ideal not to have too much diversity at the beginning (rational with rational, emotional with emotional). Later, during the recruiting process, founders should choose people with different kinds of decisions (rational + rational + sentimental for example).

To be clear: same way of decision-making at the beginning (seed) and a growing diversity afterwards (series A, B, C).

An example

To understand this video, a little backstory: Steve Wozniak (Apple’s CTO) wants his team (which built the previous Apple product) to be acknowledged during the public launch of the next Apple product. For Wozniak, the team created one of the first successes of the company and should be acknowledged. But Steve Jobs doesn’t want that to happen, it’s the launch of a new product, their focus should be the future of Apple and not the past successes. This example shows the differences between rational thinking (Steve Jobs) and emotional thinking (Steve Wozniak).

If you want to understand fights between founders and entrepreneur behaviours, Steve Jobs is one of the best movies to watch;

Being a fair manager

Relationship to power in an early stage startup is key. If two founders both want to have the decision maker job, things will get complicated. Try to separate tasks if you feel that’s the case. If someone becomes too intrusive in your decisions, you need to reaffirm your leadership. No one knows a billion dollar company with two leaders, but so many startups try to have both a CEO and a COO. At the beginning, choose people who criticise what you do but not people who are forceful with their ideas.

Don’t be a headstrong, hard-working commander who’s micromanaging. Be soft, take care of your team and keep your decision maker job at all time.

It’s also important to acknowledge that everyone doesn’t decide the way you do. And that’s a good thing. Diversity is key to create an impactful company. In the beginning, you must be efficient, so choose people who think like you. You will seek diversity as things became less intense.

It is also essential, as a founder, to discover your decision type. Check on a daily basis which one of the four kinds of decisions you’ve used the most, it will help you get a first idea. A startup needs a lot of decision making, so knowing how you behave is key to balancing your strengths and weaknesses.

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