The truth is I’ve never been a solo founder. At least not of anything that had the potential to really take off. I have started things with others and then found myself picking up all the slack and eventually doing it all by myself. Based on that experience I can say with confidence, “I’m glad I’m not a solo founder.” Doing it alone sucks.
It’s not that there aren’t perks. If you think about it, there are plenty of great reasons to be a solo founder.
- You make ALL the decisions.
- You retain ALL the profits.
- You get ALL the credit.
Sure, it’s not as simple as all that. You will most likely build a team that will help you take your business further, but the BUCK stops with you. I mean that in both senses of the word.
Here are a few other things you get to take center stage on.
- You get ALL the blame when something breaks.
- You get ALL the angry emails and tweets when your decisions don’t pan out.
- You get ALL the stress when the money is tight.
- ALL the long days.
- ALL the sleepless nights.
- ALL the ___________… you get the point.
And the big thing that goes hand in hand, is that you get to do it ALL ALONE.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some people who are wired to deal with being a solo founder and ALL that comes with it. They’re great at building a strong team that helps bear the burden and takes ownership. That solo founder might never feel alone.
Interestingly, I believe I’m a loner at heart. Leave me to my own devices and I will get some great work done. I would rather work alone than alongside people who seem to not have my same drive. I recharge when I’m alone.
What I’ve come to realize though is there are some huge advantages to not going it alone.
Advantages of Having a Partner
My perspective might be different than yours. In my case, I’m good with business, administration, marketing, and ideas. I have plenty of ideas. My weakness is I’m not a very talented developer. I’ve learned quite a bit over the years, but what I can build is limited.
Having just any partner was not going to work for me. I need one with major technical chops. One who could take any crazy idea I had and turn it into a reality. Sure, I could hire a developer to build stuff, but hiring a developer is not anywhere close to having a technical partner. Let’s look at the differences.
A partner costs nothing on the front-end
I know that may not sound like anything, but consider when you are trying to bootstrap a business. Hiring a developer to turn your ideas into something you can actually sell costs money. Depending on the size of the project and how much you have to invest, your project could be dead in the water.
So what do you do when you don’t have the cash flow? With the right skills, time is as good as money. This is where the right partner comes in.
A partner gets the vision and can invest as much of their time and energy into the project as you can. In my case, Kevin is able to build the product with no overhead cost to us other than the time he has invested. If there are other responsibilities it can slow you down, but it doesn’t have to cost you anything.
A partner has just as much to gain and lose
I’ve listened to aspiring entrepreneurs as they explain how they plan to hire someone to develop a product and then they can maintain it from there. This way they don’t have to give up a large portion of their business to a partner.
I immediately picture the scenario when something breaks at 2am on a Saturday morning. What does that person do if they don’t have the skill or knowledge to fix the problem? Sure, they could try to contact the developer to assist them, but the problem is that they aren’t vested. They got paid for their work and there is no reason for them to lose sleep over your issue. Not without the incentive of a major hike in their hourly rate.
Now is that a guaranteed outcome? Perhaps not, but something is guaranteed to go wrong and the likelihood that the developer isn’t as responsive as you’d like is pretty high.
A partner has all the incentive in the world to get out of bed and get to work fast. It’s their reputation on the line. It’s their well-being that’s threatened.
Kevin and I have had a few of those moments. I happen to be up and looking at support tickets and I start to see a trend. Something went terribly wrong in a recent update. I start pinging Kevin and he’s out of bed and patching the problem. Release pushed and crisis averted.
You simply can’t demand or expect that kind of dedication from a third-party contractor who feels their work is done.
A partner understands
I’m leaving this vague on purpose. You are going to face a lot in your business. The financial stress alone is enough to drive many into depression. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With proper communication the right partner understands all that you’re going through.
I can’t stress enough the importance of sharing that burden with someone else. Sure, you might have a mentor, therapist, or friend you can confide in. I highly recommend all of those things. There is a huge benefit of having someone who can comprehend what you’re dealing with, but isn’t personally affected so they can be objective. More on that in a later post.
None of them can take the place of someone who is down in the trenches with you. Someone who not only feels the pressure, but can help bear the weight and feel the urgency.
What is your story?
The thoughts above are from my personal experience and are affected by my personality. Your story might be quite different.
What are your thoughts on being a solo or partner founder? Are their pitfalls or advantages I’ve missed? This wasn’t meant to be exhaustive; I’d like to hear your stories as well.
Leave a comment or write a post and then link to it. I would love to hear your experiences.