Can You Succeed When You Don’t Get Along With Your Cofounders?

There were these four founders that got together to start their business. Peter, John, Roger and Keith were their names.

The products they produced were some of the best in their industry. The customers they had loved their products. And they were well respected by their competitors.

By their own admission, they got along horribly. They fought, they argued, and they had nothing in common except for the work they were doing.

John and Keith were so frustrated by Peter’s management style that they quit. They were on the verge of starting a new company when they were lured back.

But success didn’t come easy to them. They were in danger in their early years of going under.

It took them over six years before they turned a profit. However, the fighting continued even after they were successful.

Then Keith died unexpectedly. John was being interviewed when he found out and he broke down crying.

I am, of course, talking about one of the most successful acts in music history, The Who.

So why did this startup team (The Who) stay together despite all the fighting?

It certainly wasn’t for the money. In the early days they were essentially broke.

From what I’ve read about them, The Who had chemistry working together despite all the fighting. And they were fanatical about the product (their music) they produced.

The older I get, the more I believe that special element of fanaticism is the secret sauce for startup teams that stick together.

My experience working at Maxim Integrated Products sounds similar to being a member of The Who:

  • We fought constantly, and…
  • Many of the key people had little in common outside of work, and…
  • We were constantly complaining about our leader’s management style, but..
  • We were fanatical about the work we produced.

The result was Maxim was one of the ten most successful stocks on the Nasdaq in the 1990’s.

Having said all of this, working at Maxim was emotionally exhausting.

The fighting, the yelling and the screaming at each other eventually wore me down. I was emotionally exhausted, and I was ready for a change.

I can only imagine what it was like for the members of The Who with drugs thrown into the mix.

So yes, I know from first hand experience that you can build a successful company where the team doesn’t get along.

But it’s also a lot easier to succeed when you and your team does get along.

Now you don’t have to be best friends. And you don’t have to agree on every issue. But…

  • You do want team members that fit your culture, and…
  • You do want team members that are the best at what they do, and…
  • You do want team members that have integrity, and…
  • You do want team members that are fanatical about your cause.

Now you have a startup team that’s poised for success.

For more, read: Why You Need Fanatical Cofounders

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