Growth Strategies

How To Know When It's Time to Break Up With Your Co-founder

How To Know When It's Time to Break Up With Your Co-founder
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Freelance Business Writer and Social Media Marketing Consultant
5 min read
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Relationships, no matter what kind, can get pretty complicated. Whether you’ve gone through a difficult relationship yourself or watched a friend or family member go through one, you know just how much of a toll it can take. Partnering with the wrong person can cause things like self-doubt, depression, stress, and anxiety, which can even lead to health problems.

Although the word “relationship” likely brings to mind the romantic kind, other relationships can suffer the same psychological and emotional struggles that romantic partners sometimes face, and the relationship between business partners can be equally difficult to develop in a healthy way.

Like all relationships, the beginning of a business partnership is filled with excitement, hope and what seems to be unlimited potential. Whether together from the inception of the business idea or partnering after the concept had already been created, business partners go through a lot together.

Richard Werbe, founder and CEO of Studypool, knows just how critical the partnership between co-founders really is- he established his million-dollar idea with his co-founder when the pair was still in college. “I am always trying to learn something from my co-founder,” Werbe explained. “We have done so much together just because we listen and learn from one another. When you approach the relationship as a learning opportunity, it helps you put the business first.” 

Some partnerships are strong and the hard work and struggle of developing and growing a business only make them stronger, but other partnerships just don’t work out. Making the decision to break up with your co-founder isn’t any easy thing to do.

Although some co-founders and business partners don’t pull their weight from the beginning, odds are that you have both dedicated everything you have to getting your business up and running. If you’re stressing and losing sleep, though, it might be time to call things off. Here are some signs it might be time to break up with your co-founder.

1. They aren’t present

Work-life balance is extremely important, but if your partner isn’t showing up for work on a regular basis and isn’t communicating about when and why they won’t be in, that’s a sign that says they might not be fully committed. It’s important that both partners give when in a relationship, and although there might not always be an equal balance, it should be fairly even over time. Even if they do show up, if they aren’t participating in the day-to-day operations and only contribute to major or (what they consider to be) “fun” matters, it may be a sign that it’s time to consider breaking up.

2. Your communication is breaking down

Communication is vital for the survival of any relationship. If the communication between you and your co-founder is breaking down, that’s a sign you should take seriously. Poor communication won’t only affect your partnership; it will affect your entire business as well. If you and your partner aren’t communicating on the important issues, things will likely start to go downhill fast.

3. They don’t offer any solutions

There are a million problems you will run into as a business owner. If it’s not financial, it will be related to the quality of your team or an issue with your supply chain or something else. As a business owner, you should expect problems to arise, but it’s important to have solutions, too. If your co-founder is only presenting problems and blocking any solutions with more problems, your business will struggle.

Not only will the lack of solutions negatively affect your business, but having a co-founder who only focuses on the negative and the issues instead of rolling up their sleeves and getting to work can cause a lot of problems for the company and its overall culture.

4. You can’t agree

If you and your co-founder are unable to agree on any of the issues, big or small, your business will never get anywhere. Not only will your business sit in limbo, but constant disagreements can seriously affect your health. Don’t think that you and your partner should agree on everything -diversity of views is important- but when you can’t get anything done, that’s a sure sign it might be time to cut ties.

5. They are unreliable

As founders of a startup, you both have a lot of things you need to do. The list might seem like it only gets longer and longer. If your co-founder isn’t pulling their weight and helping out with the responsibilities of founding and developing a company, it may feel like there’s no point in having a co-founder at all.

Not only is it difficult if your partner can’t or won’t fulfill their own responsibilities, it’s extra frustrating if you aren’t able to trust them to fill-in or take on certain tasks to help cover for you, affecting your work-life balance.

6. Your visions for the future of the company no longer align

Perhaps your visions were different from the beginning– that should have been a red flag right away. If you started with the same vision, though, but one of you has changed your mind, you will likely have some serious disagreements and troubles (if you haven’t already). If you’re not aligned on your vision for the company, it may be time to dissolve your partnership.

If these describe your co-founder, it may be time to reevaluate your partnership. Deciding to part ways is not easy, but you shouldn’t be putting it off as a bad partnership doesn’t affect only you- it affects your entire company.

Related: Building Your Startup Team: A Guide To Finding The Perfect Hire

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