The #2 Founder Sin is Getting Married On The First Date

Would you ever consider marrying someone after the first date?

Thought so.

Since we are on the topic of Founder Sins (you can read my first one here) let’s talk about the second one real quick.  Another very common thread I see fraying from the rookie founder sweater is how quickly they are considering whom to choose as their cofounders.

“I met this developer at a networking event and I think we’re going to build something together.”

“Do you know anyone who codes?  Do you think they could help me with my idea?”

“The six of us started a company at a Startup Weekend!”

I hear these all the time.  It’s not a bad idea that people are “hustlin” and looking for skilled people to build out their team.  It’s just that it ain’t easy.

Just as dating the right person takes time for the relationship to develop into a marriage, so does a business partnership.  I am not saying you need to “court” the person for years on end, but I am saying it takes more than one event, one week or a few short meetings to grant a random person a large stake in your future company, basically legally binding the both of you.

Las Vegas Welcome Sign 3/30/11

Here’s why I know.  I have lost a cofounder myself.

In the fall of 2011 I was approached by an awesome developer – whom I didn’t know at the time – about joining the founding team of his newly forming startup.  He read an article I had written, emailed me and said we should meet.  When we met for coffee he showed me the prototype of the mobile ordering/payment stystem he was building and said he was looking for a CEO.  I was impressed and intrigued.  We booked another meeting or two and within 2 weeks we were talking “marriage”, better known as personal responsibilities, founder equity and company formation.  Before I knew it I was CEO of a tech startup (Seconds) and diving into leading a founding team I did not know two weeks ago.

But unfortunately, 6 months after that initial meeting he was on a plane moving down to SF to do contract work, leaving me to find another CTO.

What happened?

I am forever grateful for Jacques to have sought me out and single-handedly placing me on this path I am today.  Yet, in hindsight it’s clear we jumped in too quickly.  We were excited, thought time was of the essence and needed to get to work today!  Within a week or two of knowing each other we were having the “how much percentage of the company do you get and how much do I get” conversation.  I was immediately in charge of estimating product timelines, leading a team of developers, laying out our fundraising strategy, talking with the media and figuring out how we’ll make it to the next phase of the company.

All this and I didn’t even know who these people were!

I didn’t know how they handled stress (although I found out pretty quickly!)  I didn’t know how they had performed in the past on other teams and projects.  Did they run from challenges quickly or where they the ones to stick it out and find a solution?  I was not aware of their tell-tale signs of when things weren’t going right.  And I hadn’t learned how to best approach them to talk over difficult situations and touchy subjects.

In the end, I didn’t know them at all.

And now I know why investors ask about the backgrounds of the founders and how long they have known each other.  It’s very important you take the time to get to know people you want to work with in the future.  If you have a long view on your career – your entrepreneurial journey – you will see there’s decades of time for you to work on various projects and many different people you will work well with.

The thing is it’s very hard to determine that after one or two meetings.

Take it from me, it’s best to start laying the foundation for your future cofounder relationships now so that when the time comes for you to form your dream team you will already know who you will pick.

That, or get used to signing divorce papers…

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The 3 Entrepreneurial Lessons My Father (and his wedding) Have Taught Me

This is a special day in my life as my father is getting (re)married.  In fact I am extremely honored to stand by his side as his best man to celebrate and witness this great commitment.   Recently I have had the opportunity to think a little deeper about what my father, Jim Hughes, has taught me.  Many things graced my thoughts, but 3 things stick out and continue to be huge influences in my life each day.

If you are an entrepreneur maybe they will help you as well.

Devotion- Live What You Love

As long as I can remember my father has lived his passion and his work has been his life.  Amazingly, his faith is part of his work as well – he is the the Director of Stewardship & Development for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise, ID.   He lives, breathes and speaks faith.  He does not try to convert one who may not be aligned with his way of seeing the world, but anyone who meets him can sense the calmness his faith brings to his life.  He is the most dedicated and devoted person I have ever met.  His faith is his life and his work is his faith.  You will not meet anyone doubting my father’s devotion and commitment to his cause.

Basically my father raises money to support the expansion of the Diocese just as a CEO would raise money to extend the life of his company.  Say what you want about religion, faith or “believers”, this post is not a sermon; it is a lesson on how to fully devote yourself to a cause or purpose.  If my father was not fully devoted, it would be unlikely people would feel empowered to give money towards an important cause.  When spotted, an entrepreneur needs to take note of someone who is fully devoted because they are rare in this world but the best of examples.  How are investors supposed to put their faith and money in you when you aren’t fully devoted you your cause?  Show me a devoted person and I will show you someone who is making things happen.  Life just does not work any other way.

Appreciation – Life is a Gift

If you have met my father you would know exactly what I am talking about here, his appreciation for life and people is like a potent fragrance that can fill an entire room.  You know it when you shake his hand and look him in the eyes.  It’s piercing.  You sense a respect that falls like a warm blanket on the connection between the two of you.  He appreciates you for just being… you.  When you talk with him he looks right at you, transfixed on experiencing all of you and the conversation at the moment.  It is this endearing respect for all people I intuitively picked up on as a young boy watching his father, and I cannot thank him enough for the unspoken lesson which has helped me navigate through life possibly lighter than others.

As an entrepreneur I think the principles of appreciation is often overlooked, which can be a big mistake.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own situation and look out for number 1 first and foremost.  But here a few thoughts to ponder:  When you meet people, what do you think you look like – from their point of view?  Do you look them straight in the eyes?  Do you give them all your attention?  Do you let them know – without saying anything – they are the most important person in the room at that given moment?  I guarantee you will attract better talent with this approach.  Even if you are talking to your newest hire or old janitor, not understanding this principle will be an Achilles heel in your life as people will come to learn deep down you might not think so highly of them.  Success can only be found in respect and appreciation for others.

Patience – Good Things Come in Time

After my parents were divorced my father remained single for roughly 25 years and we all were wondering if it would ever happen again!  He took his (sweet) time to find the woman he felt he could commit to for the rest of his life.  But I never doubted he would end up happily ever after with another person.  As everyone started asking him what he was thinking, who would he end up with and when it would happen.. he quietly understood the principles of patience.  Patience (knowing the right thing will eventually present itself) is what brought him to today – the right time, the right person and the right perspective.

All too often we rush into something too quickly, forcing our will onto the situation thinking that if we just force the square peg in the round hole, it will fit.  Ironically this is the exact trait for which makes for an entrepreneur – sheer will.  The will of an entrepreneur can at times be a positive force, working to help us overcome challenges and move forward.  Yet many times sheer will clashes horns with a silent, but stronger patience.  Sometimes it just isn’t the right time for your vision to come together and you must pull back a bit and take a different route.  Indeed this is tough.  But smart entrepreneurs understand heeding patience and know good things always come with time.

These principles my father taught me have been life changing, I hope they may have the same impact on you.