Fighting founder conflict – four tips to keep a business on track

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Conflict can be a massive danger to newly formed businesses, particularly conflict between co-founders at a business.

Whether it be a conflict of ideas or goals, these differences can spell doom for a business according to mediator and facilitator, Naëtt Atkinson.

The internationally acclaimed mediator will be hosting a masterclass dealing with founders conflict at the SA Innovation Summit in September.

Ahead of the Summit, Atkinson has shared four tips that can help resolve founders conflict before it has a chance to fester.

The first tip is a rather obvious one at first glance but clearly its a main driver for 65 percent of startups failing due to founders conflict.

That first tip is to pick your business partner carefully.

Atkinson likens picking a business partner to picking a spouse.

“Just like in a marriage, it’s important to make sure you’re both sharing the load. While this may be washing dishes at home, in a business relationship it’s important to ensure your equity ratio reflects the relationship – is a difference in number of shares justified, are you both taking the same risk and what is expected from each other,” shares Atkinson.

Checking in

While at the outset of starting a business communication may be thriving, Atkinson says that co-founders should set goals and regularly check-in with each other to insure those goals are aligned.

“It’s important to check in regularly that you and your partners are on the same page. Regular check-ins will ensure your intentions match up, and that you are both working towards the same goals,” says the mediator.

“If an issue arises, address it immediately. Postponing a discussion on shirking responsibilities will increase resentment and will only allow for it to escalate,” Atkinson adds.

Building off of that, the expert says that communication is vital and the best way to resolve conflict it to address it head on.

“If you’re feeling dissatisfied, check with yourself what kind of needs you have, why you don’t think these are being met and communicate these to your partner. Remember, your co-founders also have needs. If your needs clash, focus on the needs of the business,” says Atkinson.

Finally, planning can help stem conflict before it arises. Plan for what will happen should the business need to scale, what will happen if one of the founders has to leave the country.

Making decisions when being driven by the emotions that thrive in conflict situations could spell disaster so Atkinson advises these decisions are made when everybody is calm.

“Good teams talk and if they struggle to, they get help. They trust, they support and are supported, they value the same things, they have the same destination in mind and agree on what is in the best interest of the business,” the moderator said.

As mentioned previously, Atkinson will be hosting a masterclass at the SA Innovation Summit which takes place from 11th to 13th September in Cape Town. More information can be found here and you can book tickets here.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.