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How do you deal with a co-founder that seems to be becoming more of hassle than an asset?

I started a company with a friend of mine who was really into it at the start and would go through spurts of quality work for weeks/months at a time then just need to be micromanaged non-stop. Lately he seems to be more of a liability than anything and won't even do simple things like work on individual goals for the start-up so we can build our company goals. I have to ask him multiple times a week if he has finished what we've discussed and usually it takes a week or two before anything is done.

What have you done in the past? How have you dealt with difficult workers or someone that you don't think is living up to their potential. Should they just be cut from the team if they are just becoming a hassle?

EDIT: Took all the thoughts into consideration and am going to try and talk it over with him. We are a bootstrap start-up so not much extra cash to sue for paying ourselves. First question I've asked this community and I'm definitely really happy with all the feedback and look forward to learning more.

27 Replies

Eric Wold
6
1
Eric Wold Entrepreneur
CEO @ RingSeven • Web & Mobile Dev • Startups
Start what might be a difficult open non-confrontational discussion. Tell him you appreciate the contributions he has made so far. The true test if you have what it takes to be a CEO is finding out why his motivation level has changed, and fixing it if possible. Team building is a CEOs most important skill. And don't be afraid to ask "Do you think I have what it takes to lead this team?" and "Do you want to carry on, or would you prefer I find a replacement?" Once he opens up, then the real work can start.
Brian Wrye
0
3
Brian Wrye Advisor
Creative Director at Sales Team
Buy him out. He's gone from partner to someone who needs rehabilitation. You have time for that? Brian
Norman Hartmann
3
1
Norman Hartmann Advisor
Principal Expert Mobile Computing at Siemens
As with everything in life... find out the reason (behind his behaviour). I was once working with an old friend who's performance was also getting worse and worse, you could literally watch it degrading. In the end it turned out that we was suffering from diabetes and was simply not aware! Lesson learned for me: bad performance can be caused by virtually any reason - I think the best advice I can give you is: find the root cause!
John Lonergan
2
4
John Lonergan Advisor
Author: Antidote at Amazon
Fire him. I've run 5 start-ups. I also sat on a CEO Roundtable for 4 years. All us CEO's agreed that the biggest mistake we made was that we fired people too late. Bar none--the biggest mistake of all.
The problem is that some people are only fit for some stages of a company's growth. Engineers and programmers who are good at creating the first prototypes are lousy when it comes to rolling the product out to the public. They're even worse at vital functions like customer support, manufacturing engineering and follow-on products. They hate to break "their" creations to see where the weak spots are.
Do I like firing people? No, I hate it. It's one of the worst parts of the job. But you'll find that the people you fire are expecting it. After they get over the initial shock, if they're any good, they'll take their firing as a blessing--enabling them to move on and do things that are a better fit.
This is a test of your fitness to lead the company. If you're unable/unwilling to fire, then perhaps YOU are the one who needs to be replaced.
Robert Clegg
1
0
Robert Clegg Entrepreneur • Advisor
Game Based Learning Expert
Is there a production plan in place? The technical team should have put that together. So then it's their responsibility to follow it. You find out very quickly if your co-founder can assess objectives, plan, and perform. When he doesn't deliver for whatever reason it justifies moving in another direction, just like with a subcontractor. That kind of meeting stays objective.

Is there a plan for you as well? How are you performing? If I had to guess, *** guess ****, the company is not reaching the expectations and goals fast enough as expected. Therefore the initial work was completed with all excited, but then as things dragged on momentum waned and productivity declined because the other part of the company is not delivering as projected or expected.

Note: your profile does not allow direct contact. Happy to discuss.
Brian McConnell
2
0
Brian McConnell Entrepreneur
Head of Localization at Medium.com
I would cut him and offer him a share of equity based on time served to date. If you had agreed to a 50/50 split, and are six months in, I would offer him one eighth of his share (assume standard four years vesting). Maybe offer him an advisory role, and an opportunity to earn additional equity based on performance, but you need to replace him with someone who will actually deliver. Don't screw him over, but the fact is he's lost enthusiasm for the project and is a net drain on the business at this point.
Gopi Mattel
3
0
Gopi Mattel Advisor
Director, Chennai Area at The Founder Institute
Many times it is not just performance, but interpersonal issues. For example, one person may argue a lot and the other maybe conflict-averse. This can lead to the perception that there is non-performance.
It is best to set up tools and processes so that it can be much more objective before you act. Set up free task management tools for the company. Create all the tasks to be done, assign responsibility and rough dates. Then it is a lot simpler to have clear information on non-performance and then all are more likely to agree on next steps for non-performers.
Eric Wold
4
1
Eric Wold Entrepreneur
CEO @ RingSeven • Web & Mobile Dev • Startups
Lol to "fire him!" before discovering the root cause. Yes, that is the likely outcome. But discuss it first and honestly determine if his lack of enthusiasm is due to his own issues and not somebody else's weak leadership.

I've fired lots of people. You don't instantly prove you are a CEO rockstar just because you are willing to fire people. Have a real chat. Fire him an hour later if doubts are not fully resolved.
Michael Brill
5
1
Michael Brill Entrepreneur
Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products
Definitely agree with Eric. I'm in the fire-fast camp but certainly not before you know *why* his performance is lacking. High probability that you are a major contributor to his attitude.

You have been building a product for over a year now, there are now tons of competitors and he's probably not being paid. You set expectations that you were going to ship an MVP in 3 months but nothing yet. His roommate makes $200K working for Google and he's wasting his time building something that'll never ship.

Statistically, you likely part ways but to Eric's point, learn as much as you can about the situation first. Then come back and ask the question.
Robert Clegg
4
0
Robert Clegg Entrepreneur • Advisor
Game Based Learning Expert
Wow, maybe I'm reading these comments wrong, but it seems it's pretty easy to throw this guy under the nearest bus without really taking a look at yourself. What did you promise? Why hasn't the company achieved x, y, or z? Do you have investors? How is it your partner created chunks of quality work but there isn't significant business momentum?

I kinda doubt this guy would be putzing around if you had a stream of investment and partnering opportunities rolling through the door.

You may be "busy" doing the wrong things or getting no results. What's your stake in this before you go firing people and running off with the company?
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