Today, my co-founder and I have modeled our business around the characteristics that unify us.
When I first started thinking about launching my own company, I always assumed I’d be working alongside someone from my professional network. I’d spent much of my career with a large consulting firm, so naturally, I envisioned my potential co-founder as a colleague from my time at McKinsey & Company.
Instead, I chose Jeff Byers—a retired NFL player whose professional background was a complete contrast to mine. To my surprise, it wound up being a fantastic decision.
Today, my co-founder and I have modeled our business around the characteristics that unify us—integrity, grit, discipline. Both of us are willing to fight for what we believe in when challenges arise.
Despite this shared approach to work, we’ve discovered our differences have brought out the best in our professional partnership. Without them, our startup might have carried more risk.
If you’re looking for a co-founder, here’s why partnering with your opposite can help you build a more successful company.
Opposite strengths create a great partnership.
In business, it’s easy to work with someone who has the same background, ideas, and motivations as you.
But like any relationship, you’re at your best when each person brings something to the table that complements and supports the other. That’s how we’ve been able to make Amp Human a success.
Take our recent approval for a small business grant from the government. It’s not something many startups go after, mainly because they aren’t even aware these opportunities exist.
Thanks to Jeff’s far-reaching network, and my extensive background in the corporate world, we were able to find someone skilled at coaching us through the application process while tapping into my writing and communication skills to present a compelling pitch.
By combining our strengths, we won the grant—just one example of how working with your opposite can help you in business.
Co-founders with different abilities are able to work through stressful situations with better outcomes.
Of course, partners are going to disagree. It’s a simple fact of doing business together. But Jeff and I learned early on in our journey that arguing could have its benefits.
Before our startup, my co-founder and I actually did work together at a biotech company. At first, we felt tension at work because we didn’t communicate the same way.
Today, we are constantly testing business decisions with each other. When we start discussing a topic, the first thing we say to each other is, “I agree,” or, “I disagree.” When the conversation starts with “I disagree” that’s really a testament to our ability to move through conflict together.
We don’t go along with an idea to simply get along. We hash it out directly so we can find a real solution with a positive outcome.
We also understand that we are both trying to get to the same place, regardless of whether or not we agree. We put our egos aside. Neither of us wants to be the loser in the argument. We are trying to win as a team.
When co-founders can come out unified, it makes the company stronger—and that’s the only way to survive in the long-term.
Having diverse perspectives also makes your company less vulnerable.
You don’t want a co-founder who is just going to back-up your ideas. The goal is to find someone who can challenge ideas in a healthy way based on different views.
Jeff’s strengths are his ability to build external relationships, his gift to bring out energy and enthusiasm from others, and his network. My strengths are my drive to achieve goals, sound decision-making skills, and using my business expertise and intuition. Combined, this is what’s helped us to build the company quickly while “keeping the train on the rails.”
This type of diversity also helps you to de-risk. If you always agree, you miss the opportunity to surface better approaches by having someone poke holes in your thinking. It’s easy to make big mistakes and move too quickly in the wrong direction.
I’ve often told my co-founder, “It’s easy to march off a cliff together and not know it.”
In other words, it’s simple to work with someone who continually validates your thoughts—even if they’re wrong. You’re happy on the same page, while your company is in a bad position because big decisions weren’t addressed properly. That’s risky.
But when you can see the flaws in one another’s ideas, you’re able to stop each other from making a bad decision. You can pull each other back from the edge.
In the end, it makes the team less exposed to risk when you’re both testing each other’s actions to make sure they’re the right move.
Of course, being aligned in vision also matters.
We both firmly believe that you need a unified long-term sight and a few shared values. For us, they are integrity, grit, and purpose—having a strong personal “why.”
Without that adjustment, there’s no keel to steer our effort over the long-term.
Our common core beliefs allow us to work together despite our differences. We can have productive, healthy debates about things we don’t see eye-to-eye on because our goal and underlying drive is the same.
When you and your co-founder can agree on a path and continually make forward progress despite having your own diverse perspectives, that’s a winning formula. From there, you’re able to achieve the ultimate goal: building a successful company, together.