Over half of new businesses fail within the first five years. But when you launch a new business with a best friend, the price of failure is even higher.
Around a decade ago, I launched a behavior change program, Noom, with my friend, Artem Petakov. Defying the odds, our friendship and business has gotten stronger over the years. Today, Artem and I credit five startup hacks we learned along the way for helping Noom — and our friendship — thrive.
1. Divvy up the work.
It’s generally believed that cofounders bring synergy to a company. However, at Noom Artem and I approach our business with a different approach: We divide and conquer. At Noom, Artem and I divide our workload, making it easier for us to conquer our own fields.
I’m business-oriented and love networking, so it made sense for me to have a client-facing role in the company. Alternatively, Artem is well-versed in software engineering, product development and running the behind-the-scenes. Over the years, we’ve found that doing what we like — and what we’re best at — is the most productive way of succeeding.
2. Invest in a middleman.
No matter how close you are to your business partner, you’re going to have disagreements. Whether it’s about company management or brand marketing, it’s natural to not always see eye-to-eye. And while you can’t avoid these business hiccups, it’s how you take them on — and resolve them — that really counts. This is why it’s important to have a middleman to mitigate conflicts between you and your cofounder. As a neutral third party, this person should show no bias for or against something or someone.
3. Align yourselves on core values and goals.
If one cofounder’s goal is to flip the company and pocket money fast, while the other cofounder aims to create a lifelong legacy, they won’t succeed. It’s not that one goal is “good” and the other is “bad” — it’s just that they’re not aligned.
The fact is, cofounders must be aligned on goals and values from the start. If not, they — and their company — will inevitably fail. When I first met Artem, we instantly bonded over our desire for a better way to manage our health — and create a lifelong legacy that can help others while doing so.
Even more importantly, we wanted to build an enduring business that implemented technology to help people get — and stay — healthy. This singular idea we shared at the time became — and remains — the basis of Noom.
4. Create — and abide by — business commandments.
Ground rules are important for any relationship — and this is especially true when it comes to a business partnership. While Artem and I typically don’t like creating rules because they stifle creativity and lower morale, we do have three business rules we follow. They are:
- I must trust you.
- You can’t have bad intentions.
- You can’t place your goals above mine.
To us, the most important thing to have in a successful partnership is trust. Without it, you have, well … Nothing.
5. Lock yourselves in a room for 90 minutes once a week.
Business partners rarely have time to chit-chat, and it only gets worse as the company grows. It’s even harder for Artem and I to catch up since we’re both constantly traveling. Still, communication is the most important component to our successful co-foundership.
In order to touch base regularly, we have meetings where we talk for 90 minutes every week, with no interruptions. During these one-on-one chats, we discuss everything, from our current projects to new ideas. And if we’re not in the same place, we chat on Zoom. You know that phrase, “Never mix business with personal matters”?
Maybe that’s true for some, but for Artem and I, it couldn’t be further from the truth. And if you want that for your co-foundership, I suggest sticking to these 5 hacks.
Saeju Jeong is the CEO/Cofounder of the world’s leading weight loss program, Noom Coach. The mobile app has helped over 47 million users live healthier lives with the support of trained and certified health coaches.