Co-founders, business partner, or founding team of a company can be fired, and even the late great Steve Jobs found that out when he was booted from Apple. He did manage to return, but that doesn’t change the fact that a co-founder can be fired.
The cliche is that a co-founder relationship is like a marriage. And, just like with romantic dating, your best bet is to get them to like you. Disagreements are normal and healthy. In fact, if you never disagree, maybe you haven’t found the right co-founder.
This means that you need to take this fact into account when you’re having problems with a fellow founder of your startup company. You also need to keep this in mind as a founder yourself—you can be fired as well.
Here are some of the more common reasons for firing a co-founder. We use “you” here in these statements to remind you that as a co-founder, you can also be next on the chopping block.
1. You Don’t Meet Deadlines
With startups, schedules are meant to be followed. Deadlines are meant to be met. If you keep on missing these deadlines, you can be considered unreliable, incompetent, or just uncaring. Any of these traits is enough to get you fired even if you’re the co-founder.
2. You Take Improper Shortcuts that Lower the Quality of the Product
Cutting corners is especially dangerous for a new company because, at this point, you’re just starting to establish your reputation. If your shortcuts are making the products unreliable or ineffective, then this can curse the image of the startup right from the get-go. You’re putting the entire enterprise at risk when you take the easy way out, so others will find it easy enough to let you go.
3. You Have Other Priorities
This is always going to be a problem, especially when the other co-founders don’t have other priorities. This means they’re giving their all for that one single startup, but you’re not. Your time, effort, and focus are all divided. You aren’t able to give your 100%, which means you’re not pulling your weight.
4. You Ignore Crucial Business Tasks
Why would you do this? When things need to get done, you better make sure they get done. As a co-founder in your startup, you better find the right people to do all these important things, or you do them yourself. Just because you disregard these tasks don’t somehow magically resolve the problem.
5. You Put the Company in a Bad Light
You represent your company out in the real world, so you better make sure you don’t do anything embarrassing. This means you don’t get yourself arrested for just about anything, and you don’t get yourself sued because of something you’ve done. Even your social media posts can put the entire company at risk, such as if you like to post racist tweets as a joke. Nobody—especially not your other co-founders—will find these funny.
6. You Can’t Seem to Attract Capital
Getting capital to launch and grow your company is part of your job as a startup founder. You better be able to get the attention of these investors and convince them to buy into your startup. Many of these investors don’t just buy in due to great ideas. They’re also betting on the people heading the startup. So, if you can’t seem to get capital for the company, it may be because these investors don’t trust you.
7. You Steal
Seriously, this shouldn’t be a surprise. If you take money and equipment from the company and use them for your own ends, you really should be fired.
8. You Lie
People have to be able to trust what you say. But if you lie about undone tasks, research results, or even about your own experience and expertise, don’t be surprised when the other co-founders just decide to fire you instead.
9. You Don’t Adapt Your Current Role to Changing Circumstances
So what if you think of yourself as a computer programmer? When there are too many tasks that need to be done, you have to amend your role to suit the needs of the present. So if you have to be an accountant or a marketing official for your company, you need to do the job that needs to be done. If you can’t, the others in the company can just find another who can.
10. You’re Not a Leader
Leadership is actually something you can learn, as military organizations have long realized. As a co-founder, that’s one of the roles you need to fulfill. You need to set plans and somehow convince employees to trust you and follow your lead. If they won’t follow you, then your co-founders may find someone who your employees will trust and follow.
11. Your Personality Clashes with the Rest of the Team
Sometimes it’s not about your knowledge and expertise at all that makes you unsuitable for a certain startup. In some cases, it’s because of your personality. If you tend to have frequent personality clashes with co-founders and other members of the team, then things don’t get done or they get done badly. It’s just a sad fact of life that sometimes, certain people can’t get along with one another.
12. You Constantly Disagree on Strategy with the Others
This is a profound difference of opinion that can’t be resolved by compromise. When the difference is at a strategic level, that’s means you’re not seeing things the same way as the others do. When this happens, somethings got to give. You can’t have people rowing on the boat with certain people rowing in the opposite direction as the others.
13. Your Current Skill Set No Longer Meets the Needs of the Company
It’s important that you cultivate an overall attitude of continuing education because you can just rely on your current knowledge and abilities. As tasks and challenges keep piling up, you need to improve your own skills and abilities. If you can’t, you’re just another obsolete component whose time was in the past.
14. You Hire and Fire People Without Consulting the Others
It’s one thing if you’re the sole founder of your startup. If you’re a co-founder, you better get a consensus with the others regarding the hiring and firing of people in your group. If you arbitrarily hire and fire people without discussing the matter with your co-founders, don’t be surprised if they discuss the matter of your firing as well.
15. You Spend Company Money Without Consulting with the Others
Again, you’re not the sole owner of the money. That means you’re not the sole owner of the money either. Before you decide on spending company money on tools or marketing plans, you better make sure that the others know and approve of these purchases. It’s their money too.
16. You Create a Tense Work Environment
You can end up with a caustic or even a toxic work environment by being a temperamental jerk, or when you think that fear is a good emotion for others to feel around you. You can also make for a stressful work environment if you’re overly sensitive, and that you feel that others are attacking you personally with everything they say.
17. You Don’t Make Sacrifices for the Startup
This a big deal, especially when the other co-founders make sacrifices. If you refuse to work overtime, or on weekends, then you may end up getting fired. The same goes if you don’t do the needed work because you think it’s not part of your job description.
So don’t limit yourself to just being the accountant, computer programmer, or marketing specialist. You’re the co-founder—your job description is to do everything you need to get your company thriving.
18. You Don’t Show Up for Meetings
You may think of meetings as a colossal waste of time, but you still need to show up. You have to be present to offer your ideas and opinions regarding strategies, plans, spending, and hiring. If you tend to miss meetings, you may end up hurting the company for which the others can find you. But even if your absence doesn’t hurt the company at all, you’re just proving that they don’t really need you anyway.
19. You Don’t Document Your Work
Exactly what are you supposed to do for the company? Most co-founders share the workload to make sure everything important gets done. You need to do the work, and you better have proof that you did your share. You can’t just waste days on not doing anything. Even if you think you’re doing something important like thinking about creative marketing plans, It’s not enough. If you don’t have anything to do prove that you’ve been working, don’t be surprised if the others think you’re not working at all.
30. You Don’t “Evangelize” Your Company
You need to go out there and spread the word about your new business to all your contacts. Talk about it with friends and family. Speak about the good your company and why people will become customers and clients. Part of your job is to boost awareness of your brand and participate in business development. Not only will this help you increase your customer base, but you can also attract venture capital. Talking up your company is part of your job as a co-founder.
So which issues here apply to your co-founders? Keep in mind that these may also apply to you. Better change your ways if they do—you may end up getting fired even if you’re the co-founder of the company!
Also, check these 30-Point checklists for Your Startup