You Never Have The Perfect Tools For The Job

A while back, I read a popular blog post on “Why I’ll Be a Solo Founder Next Time”:

The author, Denny Britz, writes about how his previous startup failed because he and his co-founders were “bad” founders, and vows to do things differently his next time out:

“If you haven’t found the right team yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
You are better off starting alone and adding the right people to your
team when you find them. No one can guarantee startup success, but a bad
founding team is a guarantee for failure.”

It’s certainly true that you’re better off as a solo founder than with a bad founding team, but resolving to be a solo founder is an overreaction.  I should know, since I’ve lived this.

When I started my first company, it was during the height of the Dot Com boom.  The joke then was that you based your hiring on “the mirror test.”  If a job candidate could fog a mirror, you hired him (or her).  This is how we ended up with a software developer who was working for us from 1-7 PM, and whom we discovered was working for a separate company from 6 AM to Noon.

I was traumatized by my experience, and for a long time, I was reluctant to trust co-founders I didn’t know, or even employees.

But after another couple of startups, I realized that you never have the perfect tools for the job.  There is no such thing as a perfect team, just like there’s no such thing as a perfect spouse or a perfect child.  The right co-founder is someone you can live with, not someone you can’t find fault with.

And if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that you’re not perfect either–anyone who picks you as a co-founder has to make the same leap of faith.

By all means, be selective.  I wouldn’t advise you to marry whomever responds to your OK Cupid posting first.  But recognize that you’re always going to have to make compromises.  Accepting that fact will allow you to deal with people generously, rather than brooding on their flaws.

I find that I do better when working with people who have high expectations of me, and vice versa, not people who constantly criticize me for my (many) flaws.  I suspect the same is true of you.

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