Two Heads Are Not Always Better Than One: Why You May Not Want a Co-Founder

By: Felena Hanson

Let’s admit it: Starting a business from scratch is challenging. There is significant allure to having someone by your side to navigate this daunting process with you. We often hear stories of how successful companies were built when two yin/yang partners — think Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Apple) or Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Ben & Jerry’s) — came together to launch something revolutionary.

But with many key resources (including mentoring programs) and tools becoming more and more accessible and affordable these days, it’s worth revisiting — do you need a co-founder, or better said, will you be more successful in the long-term with a co-founder?

Contrary to popular belief, going solo might just give you a better chance of success. Data from Greenberg and Mollick’s recent research clearly show that two heads are not always better than one.

In a survey of thousands of Kickstarter project creators from 2009 to 2015, the researchers highlight the following surprising statistics about solo founders when compared to co-founded teams:

  • Solo founders were 41–54% less likely to dissolve or suspend their business.
  • Co-founded companies were 42% less likely to have an ongoing profitable venture.

While greater risks and responsibilities can be shared between founders, this is a double-edged sword. Teams are faced with greater complexities such as uneven commitment, impeded critical decision-making, and unavoidable conflicts — which ultimately lead to the common horror stories we know about failed partnerships.

[Related: The 8 Most Expensive Legal Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make]

Solo founders, on the other hand, enjoy greater flexibility and develop an array of skills from wearing different hats. With less organizational cost, they are also likely to benefit from higher profitability. Most importantly, they can work independently and have full control of decision-making and company direction.

Even though solo-founded companies are potentially more profitable and long-lasting, going solo, in many ways, can still be intimidating, difficult, and admittedly, at many times, lonely. At certain junctures, you may feel tempted to reconsider your solo journey and look for a business partner.

Here are some alternatives to help you navigate through these challenges.

To brainstorm or gain new perspectives, one option is to consider joining or starting a mastermind group. A mastermind essentially is a group of people gathering regularly to provide ideas, support, and guidance toward mutual growth and improvement.

Learning from like-minded entrepreneurs and well-respected industry leaders not only expands your network, but allows you to gain “accountability partners” when you share your business goals with others. This investment will boost your business success and eventually gain you good friends who can make your startup journey less lonely.

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Another alternative to finding a business partner is to consider joining coworking space. Female-focused coworking spaces, in particular, have been gaining popularity over the last decade. Try searching for a coworking space within your city.

Coworking spaces can provide entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small business owners the opportunity to connect with a professional community. Most coworking spaces are fully equipped with the office infrastructure and amenities designed to improve productivity, educational opportunities, moral support, and collaboration.

One note: If you’re building a technology company, investors may want to see that you have a technical co-founder on your team. They often believe that if you can convince someone with that level of talent to put in sweat equity, you likely have a decent idea. They want to make sure that this key business element is locked down before they are willing to move forward with an investment.

Being a solo founder is not for everyone. It will take a lot of drive and tenacity to succeed. I recommend getting as far as you can alone by hiring key staff members and potentially bringing on an advisory board.

If you come to a point in your business that you MUST bring on a partner, be sure to have everything documented and signed. Detailed contracts, with what-if scenarios, can be the critical factor that saves your business down the line.

[Related: How To Use Roadblocks As A Jumping-Off Point To Learn And Grow]

Felena Hanson is the founder of Hera Hub, a spa-inspired shared workspace and community for female entrepreneurs. She is the author of “Flight Club — Rebel, Reinvent, and Thrive: How to Launch Your Dream Business,” which provides tools and resources to women at every stage of launching their businesses.

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