Do Co-founders Decide Everything Together or Does The CEO Call The Shots?

This is a question I answered on Clarity.fm from a founder regarding the dynamics between founders where one is the CEO and the other is not. Here is the question:

[su_quote]I’m a 1st time startup co-founder and CEO. My partner joined after falling in love with the idea, but since then, decision making became much more complicated, and I feel like the product gets pulled in too many opposing directions. When I do insist on my vision, we execute together beautifully. We did agree that I’ll be the CEO, but it seems he has trouble settling for it. Any advice?[/su_quote]

Here is my response:

First off, congratulations on taking the leap to founderhood. In the early stages of a startup, roles are often complicated. You may bring the idea and vision but your other co-founder should also be able to contribute and shape the vision. The product often gets put in the middle of power struggles between founders. Work with your co-founder and share the vision you have. Allow him to do the same and bring both of your visions together. It is important that you do this with an open mind. Your vision needs to be flexible. If not these type of conversations will not be productive and tensions with your co-founder will become more pronounced.

Your job as CEO is not to veto ideas from co-founders but to bring clarity to the vision. Mark Suster uses the analogy of the CEO being the Chief Psychologist. Check out his post, “My Life as a CEO (and VC): Chief Psychologist.”

Also remember that the decision maker will ultimately be your customers. When pre-traction we often look to ourselves as founders for the answers. As you gain customers their interest and lack of interest should be a big factor that ways into decisions.

To help with product decisions sit down with your co-founder and develop a product roadmap. This will help bring the high level vision down to execution and tactics.

A book I emphatically love and recommend for first time founders is “The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup.”

I hope this helps.

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