How to successfully set up and run a business with multiple founders

Starting a business is no easy feat which is why so many entrepreneurs choose to enter the world of start-ups with one or multiple co-founders. This way you always have someone in your corner, you can share responsibilities, confide in one another and enjoy all the highs (and lows) with someone else who is equally as invested in the mission as you are.

Having said that, multiple co-founders can also pose some challenges which is why it is vital to set up solid foundations for the business from the very start. Here are my five tips for successfully starting and running your business with multiple co-founders.

1.  Leverage each other’s strengths as much as you can

There is probably a good reason why you have teamed up with your co-founder/s, so make sure this is being leveraged at every opportunity. Typically one founder will be stronger than the other in certain areas, especially if backgrounds differ, so it’s best to identify what these strengths and weaknesses are right off the bat. If skillsets are complementary then it will come quite naturally to decide who looks after what. Don’t be afraid to draw a line in the sand and put your hand up if something is not your strong suit. For example, one co-founder might be better suited to marketing and sales, while the other is better at operations.

2.  Share the admin, don’t drown in it

Starting any business comes with a significant admin burden so it’s best to share this load. There’s accounting, ASIC obligations, paying bills, ABR/IP registrations, bank account setups and book-keeping/accounting processes – to name only a few. I don’t know too many founders that love admin so by sharing it nobody has to single-handedly deal with it. And, what’s more, you can joke about what a pain it is when you’re hitting roadblocks. Keep it light.

3. Communicate clearly and have regular one-on-ones

Internal messaging platforms like Slack are great for operational comms however we (Mike Abbott, Kaddy’s other co-founder and I) set aside one to one and a half hours every Monday to sync on key priorities and make sure there’s no doubling up for the week ahead on our respective workloads. We make sure we’re optimising our time and spending enough time discussing resourcing matters and other pressing issues.

4. Ensure all the founders are across the reality of the customer

In the early days both Mike and I were seeing every customer and supplier to really understand all the different pain points and opportunities to solve them. They frequently gave us invaluable insights into what was working and what we needed to improve on. And these discussions would often spark ideas for future innovation/product development. If one founder ends up taking more of a permanent lead on the customer/supplier side, make sure there is a clear feedback loop so both/all founders are kept informed about the reality of the customer as this information should filter right through the business.

5. Establish clear roles and reporting funnels for employees/staff

This is less important in the beginning when staff is lean and everyone is involved in all parts of the business, but as you start to grow, make new hires, and develop org structures, clearly defined roles and responsibilities become important. Take time to document key areas of responsibility for each founder and then communicate this clearly with staff so they know what their reporting lines are and how they will be managed. In the long run, this will make everyone’s lives easier, ensuring that the right questions and queries are being directed towards the right person.

Rich Coombes, Co-Founder, Kaddy

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