The Template That Made Sure My Co-Founder and I Were Perfect Partners
Here's the exact conversation I had with my co-founder to make sure we had similar goals and values.
I’ve had bad partner relationships before. Girlfriends, friendships, business relationships. Whatever.
The cause of most of the issues: we didn’t want the same things and/or didn’t have similar values.
So, before starting my last company, Hampton, I made sure my partner Joe and I had similar values, and goals, and were willing to live complementary lifestyles.
The exercise was simple: write where you want to be in the future and what you’re willing. (and unwilling) to do to get there.
Below are our answers. The italic text is the notes I wrote after the fact for this blog.
---- The document I sent to Joe starts now ----
Where we are:
- Enjoy working with one another
- Have a thing that has the potential to be big
- Will require years of dedication and focus
I’d love if we could each map out what we want, how we want to get there so we make sure we’re cool entering into this partnership.
Just so we know what each person wants, what each person’s willing to do, and we wanna get there in the same way.
At this point, we’d been friends for years and angel-invested together.
What I want
- +$X00m net worth in 7 years
Hid the net worth I want. I’ve had partners who don’t care about money. I do care. It can be a nightmare when you’re money-motivated and the other isn’t. Like a band member wanting to be Lady Gaga while the other wants to be like some no-name indie band. Both can rock, but I want to write hits.
- Fame and influence. I want a seat at the big boys table and for people to think I’m a wonderful at my job.
I wanted it to be clear to Joe what my insecurities were. Being taken seriously as an entrepreneur (and not just being a content creator) was one of them.
This is why I don’t want to take VC. Entrepreneurship is my art. My self-expression. I can’t do what I want when taking into account outsider’s wishes. I’ve raised money before. And when I did, it was my duty to make an effort to give them a good return. I don’t want that duty anymore.
- Ability to live in different cities throughout the year with my family
- Ability to fly private
- To be present in my kids and wife’s life.
- Own loads of different real estate in the form of short-term rentals, multi-family, and other types.
This has changed btw. I don’t want to own any real estate. Ha!
- Fun, adventure, and living life on my own terms
- Working very hard. Like a lion. Long hours. But then long vacations. Example: 3-4 weeks of intensity, then 1 week chill. Or 9 months hard, take summer off.
- To travel the world comfortably
Ways I want to get there
- Build a peer group business
- On my own time, without a boss, with few, if any meetings, and few, if any employees.
Joe and I both hate scheduled meetings. We prefer impromptu hangouts.
- Focusing on my strengths and not doing things that I am not great at.
- Having different streams of income (courses, peer groups, angel investments, podcast fees)
What I’d want for this Hampton business
- Aggressive scaling
Frankly, I don’t care about money, revenue, profit. I care about growth and aggressively improving. And trying to be great for the sake of greatness. At times, that means scaling revenue, profit, or users. But often it’s growth in mindset, performance, whatever.
- Companionship with you and other coworkers. A sense of tribe.
- Zero outside ownership unless amazing case can be made
- Few employees
- Hire people I love being around.
- Not sell and just pay people well.
I built my previous company to sell. I had a 5 year time span. I don’t retreat that. But with my next company, I wanted a 10-50 year time horizon. Not only because I care about compounding, but because I want to make something I love so much that I don’t want to stop.
- An attempt at $100m in revenue in 5 years
$100m is a nice round number that I made up.
- A business that’s owned for a long time and profits are continually invested into more things.
I’m not a great investor. I want to learn how to invest properly.
- I want this to be my main job. I expect myself to work 40 hours a week or more. Then, when its chill time (like I mentioned above), its chill time.
This was important. Both Joe and I sold or stopped doing other projects so Hampton was #1.
What I want
- Life Freedom / Flexibility
- Remote / No required office
- Enjoy the work / excited to do it
- Challenge / Fun / Enjoy working w/you
- No VCs / Growth Pressure
- Cash-flow positive company / self-sufficient
- $X yearly income
- No intention of ever selling, but if we did it’d have to net me $X.
- really want to funnel internet $ into real estate portfolio
- Want to look back 20-25 years from now, and have a sick real estate empire
- want excess capital to continue investing into early stage internet startups
- while I’d love a skeleton crew, scaling to large enterprise value will require people, esp if we don’t want to overtax ourselves. We may need a President/COO, CFO, etc. We may need some VPs or directors.
- The agreed goal is to keep our overhead VERY lightweight, but can’t be allergic to hiring help to scale. Full-time outbound sales, customer service, coach management, etc etc
- no meetings, just slack, and fast catch-ups when necessary
- Something we are proud of that actually helps people
I wrote the following to Joe after I saw his answers:
Seems like we’re on the same page
Any points of conflict that need to be addressed, you think?
---- End of document ----
Joe and I discussed this stuff on the phone afterward. I was confident before we wrote this out that we had similar values as we founder dated the year before. But writing it out helped.
Now, we both may change. Maybe we’ll hate each other in the future. I hope not! But maybe.
But it was important for us to write this out and be intentional about what we each wanted and the price we were each willing to pay.
Hope this helps!
Personally, I find being the CEO of a startup to be downright exhilarating. But, as I'm sure you well know, it can also be a bit lonely and stressful at times, too.
Because, let's be honest, if you're the kind of person with the guts to actually launch and run a startup, then you can bet everyone will always be asking you a thousand questions, expecting you to have all the right answers -- all the time.
And that's okay! Navigating this kind of pressure is the job.
But what about all the difficult questions that you have as you reach each new level of growth and success? For tax questions, you have an accountant. For legal, your attorney. And for tech. your dev team.
This is where Hampton comes in.
Hampton's a private and highly vetted network for high-growth founders and CEOs.