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Please help me deal with a flaky business co-founder.
January 23, 2012 3:24 AM   Subscribe

Please help me deal with a flaky business co-founder. Details inside.

I am starting a business and have invited someone to be a co-founder - this person, whom I met about a year ago after several online interactions, has skills that are complementary to mine that would be quite valuable to this new venture. We discussed the idea and she was very excited about it and I was also thrilled about her coming on board.

My concerns come from the following: first, she has had business partnerships that did not succeed, apparently because she was the only one doing the work and her fellow partners did not agree with her supposed perfectionist nature. Second, she has posed a list of potential challenges about our/my venture (which relies heavily on the collaboration of a network of people). Third, she has some other projects going on, which are doing very well.

We have met last Wednesday to discuss next steps and she wants to continue doing proofs of concept to confirm that the business is worth pursuing, which is mostly fine by me, but we agreed to do a few things, and it is Monday and she hasn't done her bit yet - probably because she is busy with her other projects. Perhaps is worth mentioning that her projects and our/my idea have a lot of synergies - basically all these things could work on the same platform.

While I am ready to put a lot of time and energy into this venture *right now*, she seems to be stalling it by proposing to do X to get to Y but not really doing her bit. The idea is mine, she seemed to be keen to get on board at first, but she takes so long to actually act on things...and I am starting to get the idea that she is not all that passionate about the project.

I feel a bit like a teenager waiting to get a phone call from a would-be boyfriend, which is rather stupid when I have plenty to get on with. Am I getting a bit anal about this or is it time to jump ship before I waste my time trying to work with this person? In case of the latter, how do I go about telling her what I mentioned above in a nice way without coming across as a patronizing bitch?
posted by heartofglass to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Second, she has posed a list of potential challenges about our/my venture (which relies heavily on the collaboration of a network of people).

This is not a negative. She is being rational about your venture, communicating potential pitfalls that you might encounter. You should discuss them and find ways to mitigate any risk they pose to your project.

We have met last Wednesday to discuss next steps and she wants to continue doing proofs of concept to confirm that the business is worth pursuing, which is mostly fine by me, but we agreed to do a few things, and it is Monday and she hasn't done her bit yet - probably because she is busy with her other projects.

Last Wednesday, as in four days ago? That's not a lot of time for anyone with other projects or a life on the go. Did you set expectations on when the work would be done? If you did, perhaps a quick follow up email asking if there's anything she needs from you.

Am I getting a bit anal about this or is it time to jump ship before I waste my time trying to work with this person?

I think you're being a little anal. Your list of concerns are that she's is/has been involved with other projects, she isn't as passionate as you are (to be fair, it's your idea), she posed challenges and she didn't turn around a four day deadline. She sounds like a rational business partner who'd rather take things slow and analyze than just act, which is actually a good compliment to someone who's amped up with a good idea and wants to act NOW NOW NOW.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 3:46 AM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


When you met last Wednesday and agreed to do "a few things," did she agree to have "her bit" done by a certain day? Has that day passed? What you've laid out here is so vague that it's impossible to tell whether she's dropped the ball or your anxiety is getting the best of you.
posted by jon1270 at 3:47 AM on January 23, 2012


Just to clarify, we agreed to have "our bits" done over the weekend. It is not so much that I am annoyed that she hasn't turned it around in four days, to be hones, but the things is that I want to make this project happen rather than sitting around twiddling my thumbs....
posted by heartofglass at 3:52 AM on January 23, 2012


Does the benefit of having her involved outweigh the benefit of having total control over your business? Is she putting money into it?

You can network with people without giving them control over your business. Perhaps you could look at her as a mentor and not a partner.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:54 AM on January 23, 2012


Of your three concerns, the first two are positives, not negatives; they show she has experience and is being realistic. The third one is a total deal breaker, however, IMHO -- you don't co-found a business while you have other projects going on.
posted by ook at 4:00 AM on January 23, 2012


It is not so much that I am annoyed that she hasn't turned it around in four days, to be hones, but the things is that I want to make this project happen rather than sitting around twiddling my thumbs.

Deal with this diplomatically; pick a couple of actions you'd like to take on now and ask your partner if she would mind if you start working on them while she completes her work. Lines of communication and honesty are vital to a co-founded project and you might as well start now in establishing what your expectations are.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 5:07 AM on January 23, 2012


Just to clarify, we agreed to have "our bits" done over the weekend.

From your location on your profile, it's about 11am Monday where you are. While that would technically make her "late" on finishing something over the weekend, it's not by much. Did you set firm deadlines?
posted by xingcat at 5:51 AM on January 23, 2012


Agreed that this seems a little early to be thinking her a flake. Perhaps in the future, include a time with the deadline? It never hurts to be completely explicit about timeline and content expectations re: deliverables.
posted by smirkette at 6:18 AM on January 23, 2012


I've been in business for years, and have been through numerous partner issues. I agree - there doesn't sound like she's a flake per se. "she has some other projects going on, which are doing very well." suggests that she's busy (and possibly not flaky). Perhaps she's over extending? Be mindful of that. Be mindful of getting into business with people in general - it's not like a relationship where you give the coffee cup and CDs back and never see them again.
posted by mattoxic at 6:47 AM on January 23, 2012


Is this one of these things where you are the person with the business plan and marketing side and she is effectively building it? Be wary because those business relationships get strained because the builder often under estimates the difficulty and then the idea person gets frustrated because they can't sell what isn't yet built. This is a very common partner frustration, but it sounds like she may have a bit on her plate.
posted by dgran at 6:50 AM on January 23, 2012


Give her until Wednesday before following up. Doing something "over the weekend" can mean different things to different people. I know you are rearing to go, so try to find things that don't involve her that will keep you busy, and give her a couple of chances before thinking she might be a flake. Besides, even if you do see a pattern of taking an extra couple of days to get things done, sometimes it's worth it to work with that person, and as you learn each other's working style things will go more smoothly. (Unless she really is a flake.)
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:20 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Be mindful of getting into business with people in general - it's not like a relationship where you give the coffee cup and CDs back and never see them again

Emphasizing this. I would tell people that a business partnership is like a marriage, but harder because in a marriage two people can agree to disagree about something, but when making a business decision that one person agrees with and one person doesn't, one person usually has to swallow it.
Plus it's harder to get out of.
I've been in several partnerships over the years, luckily only one of which turned acrimonious. It takes work on both peoples part to learn how to work most effectively as part of a team. I had to learn how to adjust my expectations about others input as well as they did mine.
It sounds like you are very passionate and very eager to get things rolling on this project, which is a great (and probably necessary) way to feel. However, since it's your baby, there will likely not be anyone else who will feels this same sense of urgency.
You need to decide if this feeling of dissatisfaction that you are having is coming from you being maybe slightly irrationally impatient (I get like this when very excited by a new project, and have learned to keep it in check for the most part), or if she is dragging her heels, or maybe just not able to give the project priority status.
If it's the former, you can adjust your expectations accordingly. If it's the latter, you need to decide if you can be happy with her pace of accomplishing tasks and the way she works throughout the life of the business,. If you do decide that you can, you need to be able to tell yourself that you accepted this as part of the deal of partnering up with her every time you feel yourself getting frustrated by her.
posted by newpotato at 8:06 AM on January 23, 2012


It sounds like you need to have a conversation with this potential partner of yours and see if she is as serious about starting this business as you. And, pay attention to the inflection she uses in her answers with you.

If she's hesitant or unsure in her responses maybe she has misgivings about the business or working with you or else other things going on in her life which demand her attention.

None of these are good signs for entering into a business relationship with another person for the purposes of founding a new business. An entrepreneurial venture is, in its initial stages, an all or nothing venture, in which one has to devote the majority of one's time for at least the first couple of years.

If your potential partner is unwilling or unable to make that commitment, and make it explicitly to you, you should cut your losses and move on. Perhaps retain your friend as a consultant or a mentor as others have suggested.
posted by dfriedman at 8:42 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seems to me you're posing the question in terms of, "Am I wrong, or is she wrong?"

I think what you should be considering, instead, is, "Can we work together?"

The former implies fault, when fault doesn't necessarily exist. The latter is a question of similarity of temperament and priorities and such.

It doesn't matter how committed either of you are, if you have such different "styles" that you can't easily and happily work together.
posted by mie at 9:45 PM on January 23, 2012


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