By Courtney Reum and Carter Reum
This original essay, by Carter and Courtney, coincides with their new book, “Shortcut Your Startup” published by Simon & Schuster.
Having the right business partner is paramount to your company’s success. Especially if your strengths cancel your partner’s weaknesses, and vice versa. Your differing skill sets and experiences lead to diversity of thought, which is crucial to your company’s success. But there are certain issues that founders must align on early — delaying addressing these issues may not only damage your relationship, but your business too!
Avoiding these problems, however, can be easily accomplished. Here are three conversations to have with your business partner(s) before launching.
Shortcut Your Startup
(Photo courtesy of Courtney and Carter Reum)
Know Your Business Strategy: Are You a Speedboat or a Sailboat?
Business strategies are not all created equal. And not all companies take the same route from point A to point B. Companies usually come in one of two forms: as a speedboat or sailboat. Speedboats are first movers in an industry who sprint to the finish line and who define success by finishing first or second. Lyft is an example.
Then there are sailboats. They head in a general direction, waiting for the surrounding winds to boost them. KeVita, the manufacturer of sparkling probiotic drinks, followed this path by anticipating the popularity of the kombucha trend. Both are extremely effective when used correctly, yet founders often disagree which method is right for them. Taking the time early and discovering which vessel to use — and sticking to it — is essential to your business’s success.
Know What You and Your Partners Do Best. Outsource the Rest.
There’s a misconception that a great company or great founders must be great at everything. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Both you and your co-founders will have very specific skill sets. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, you and your partners should stick to your specialties. Then outsource the non-essentials.
Surf Air, the provider of unlimited flights for a fixed fee, leveraged this model. Originally buying and maintaining its own fleet, Surf Air sold the planes and partnered with a third-party operator who manages them. This allowed Surf Air to stay lean and focus on its core management and marketing strengths. A quicker and more efficient workflow was the end result. Founding teams must incorporate this mindset before launching — it’ll be too late if you wait.
Know What Success Looks Like.
All too often, founders are so busy building their ideas that they ignore a fundamental question: What does success look like for your business? You might think the goal is “to make money” or “be successful,” but those aren’t quantifiable results. Is the goal to build for sustainable cash flow? Or for an IPO or acquisition? Are you trying to exit in 5 years or 50? Every entrepreneur needs to address these questions with fellow co-founders.
Don’t be surprised if answers differ among co-founders — this isn’t inherently a problem. But you need to find some common ground as your company develops a long-term strategy. Without an established barometer of success, the odds increasingly stack against your favor.
With that said, it’s no secret that starting a business is demanding, and you and your partners are in for a challenge. But adhering to the three tips just might give you that edge. Now get to work!
Courtney Reum and his brother Carter are former Goldman Sachs investment bankers, entrepreneurs, operators, and investors. Courtney and Carter currently live in Los Angeles, where they run day-to-day operations at M13, a 21st-century investing platform that seeks to affect outcomes for founders, partners, and investors by institutionalizing the process of scaling consumer-centric brands.