Here are tips for working most effectively with others when it comes to your business.
Have you always dreamed of starting a business on your own, as a solo entrepreneur? It can feel like the perfect chance to build on your ideas and have everything exactly as you want it, without asking for input from others.For many of us, a solo business venture can feel like a perfect enterprise. However, being the lone individual on a project also puts a lot of weight on your shoulders and there’s a lot of stress involved with being completely on your own.
If you, at the very least, need help from someone else in getting your business up and running, then you’ll need to work with others and do so in the most effective way possible. Below are some tips for doing just that.
By Mary Juetten
Co-founding a business with a like-minded collaborator can be an exciting prospect, with seemingly boundless potential and promise lying before you. But not all partnerships are built to last, as productive as they may be; indeed, if movies have taught us anything, even levels of success that should make everyone happy aren’t enough to keep brilliant and productive pairings together when ego, power, and personal differences come into play.
Like marriage, co-founders should go into any partnership with their eyes open, prepared for a split even if it never materializes. But it’s easy to be seduced by the fun and camaraderie of the early days, and there aren’t many pairs thinking of divorce during their honeymoon period. For that reason, there aren’t as many co-founder agreements as there should be, as founders convince themselves that the thing they’ve seen play out numerous times before could never happen to them, even though the parties in each of those cases likely through the same thing.
A painless split is rarely possible where business is involved. Any sufficiently large company is a mess of entanglements, especially when co-founder agreements are missing. Ownership stake and the assignment of intellectual property are particularly thorny issues that require a pre-arrangement; we’d like to think that we could be reasonable in the event of a split, but hurt feelings and disputes can get in the way of magnanimity. And without the surety of signed agreements, the legal disputes that come with a co-founder departure can end up in legal fights that can threaten to bring the entirety of the business down.
Hiring employees for your company might seem like an easier matter to handle, a more straightforward relationship. And with the right people, it can be that: smart, hardworking professionals that bring complementary skills and diligence to the tasks you assign them. Good employees are necessary for any business that wants to grow. But each new person brought into your company brings their own set of risks unless handled correctly.
Employment agreements are another item that founders should have ready to go for the first day that they start the interview process. However, for any number of reasons, too many entrepreneurs decide to forego the paperwork or forget about it entirely. Whether that is due to a lack of knowledge or understanding about the importance of agreements or a consequence of the chaotic spirit that can pervade an early-stage startup trying to find its feet, the lack of written agreements with employees can end up haunting your company in the future.
Ownership rights over work made for hire aren’t always as straightforward as one would think, and without an agreement in writing that delineates ownership of work, you might end up in a situation where an employee owns the logo they designed for your company or the copy they wrote for your marketing materials. And that’s to say nothing of potential problems with trade secrets or inside information walking out the door as your employee leaves. Without the restriction of confidentiality and non-compete clauses, there’s nothing to prevent a former employee from taking what they learned to another company in the same industry. Ideally, you have the sort of employees who would respect the propriety of knowledge gained at your offices but, as with co-founders, relationships can change as feelings grow sour, and relying on goodwill and decency isn’t any way to run a business, at least successfully.
Adding people to your venture, whether it be one or more co-founders or multiple employees, will undoubtedly make the process of running your business more complicated. But they can also make it better, provided that you’ve taken the necessary steps to protect yourself from the inevitable vagaries of human relationships, both personal and professional.
So how do you most effectively work with others when it comes to running your business? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check out our Business Owners page to see how the partners at Flagship Financial can help you!