6 Ways for Cofounders to Settle Disagreements
When your business is an equal partnership, who breaks the tie? Six entrepreneurs share their methods.
1. Focus on the "yes."
"When we started our business, we discussed our strengths and interests and decided that if we couldn't resolve an issue, I would have 51 percent ownership over the finances and my cofounder, Christiana [Coop], would have 51 percent ownership over design. But we also agreed to discuss our differences in opinion, and for more than 11 years, we haven't had to play our "ownership card.' Our default is that if we both can't get to yes on something, we pass." — Aimee Lagos, cofounder, Hygge & West
2. Turn to your team.
"We've built a highly experienced executive team — VP of operations, VP of construction, VP of finance — to help us settle disagreements and differences. They're our tiebreaker. This allows us to spend less time bickering and more time on strategy." — Paul Altero, cofounder, Bubbakoo's Burritos
3. Rely on your relationship.
"My husband is my cofounder, which adds another level of complexity we've learned to turn into an advantage: Marriage and parenting require micro problem-solving on the daily, so most of the time, we're in a flow that feels more or less automatic. It's a balancing act of knowing when to lean on the other, and knowing when it's meaningful to stand your ground. Our number one rule? Don't take things personally!" — Jaime Schmidt, founder, Schmidt's Naturals
4. Trust the numbers.
"My cofounder, Michael [Wieder], and I both have strong opinions, so when starting Lalo, we wrote a list clearly defining our roles and responsibilities — and we revisit this list every quarter. It's allowed us to figure out who is the ultimate decision maker if we can't come to an agreement. And whenever possible, we rely heavily on data and let the numbers break the tie." — Greg Davidson, cofounder and CEO, Lalo
5. Ditch the emotions.
"We're complementary opposites, a yin-and-yang partnership. While that sounds lovely, in reality it means we approach problem solving from two different angles and have to work together to objectively come to an agreed decision. We try to avoid the "I'm right, you're wrong' argument. It's important to pause, listen, and communicate from an unemotional place, and — knock on wood — it usually works out." — Brian Bordainick, cofounder, Starface
6. Get loud.
"Leslie [Barron] and I have been business partners for 15 years, and it's true that a business partnership is akin to being in a marriage; you have to make concessions and compromises. So when conflicts arise, we always sit down, listen to each other, and, yes, argue. That's the thing — it's OK to argue and debate so that ultimately, we find out who is more passionate about the issue at hand. Essentially, the loudest bark wins!" — Amy Reed, cofounder, Woofie's
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