That's the first rule for your startup if you are starting up with few friends. And there are few simple reasons for this, I learned it hardway, I think I should spell out. We started CodeIgnition with friends, few of them stayed, few of them disagreed, but the way we reached some decisions, it was not a nice journey, all of us could have dealt with it in a better fashion. Well, we are learning...
If they don't they there is no reason that they will work with you. If they have come together and if you have brought them together, both of you or everyone of your have some agenda, spend time to understand that.
Ofcourse there is, within partners, among partners, among shareholders, make it clear, understand and adhere to it. If you are challenging the status quo, make sure that you have an action plan to challenge the status quo, you must have an idea which is inclusive, which is better in terms of what can be done next.
Many a times, partners think that they should have a say in a business, well that's true, but you know what - it's not as easy as it seems, there are always misunderstanding around what's going on. Earn that authority to question something, earn the authority to make sure that you can take that baton and move ahead with it. Eg, questioning finances to partners is not a right thing, instead ask the accountant, if accounts are not shared, figure out how can they be shared, may be your partner did not get time? help him with that - but not questioning his/her authority but being an assistant to achieve that transparency.
Ask the question, what's your role as co-founder? You are a technology guy, but as a co-founder what's your role apart from being co-founder, people can play multiple roles, and your leading partner might be playing those, but if you are not playing more than your role as developer or business analyst, then what are you expecting your leading partner to do?
Sit and discuss your problems, this really goes a long way, if you don't understand your partners, their issues, their expectations from you, then what are you expecting? what are you dealing with? what are you looking forward to?
Not in equal terms, but realise where you are, ask questions - can you do this business alone? well more than that, can you start this business alone and bring it where it is? Can your partner do this alone and bring it to state where it is? If both answers are yes, then go ahead and do equal partnership, but if one of the answer is yes, then you know you are not equal partner, rememebr and respect that fact. And when getting these numbers, you might think it does make huge difference, but listen to your heart, figure out what's right and move on.
Ask for your existence in the company, the company changes rules over the period of time, time changes everything. If that's changed over period of time and made you uncomfortable, then ask this question again and again. You should collectively with help of your partners try to find the answer. Keep asking this to yourself every 6 months.
Life is too short to get angry on people. Life is way too short to loose friends, have a clear demarcated line between personal and professional life. Friends comes together for personal reasons, but they might leave for professional reason, so why should personal life suffer?
People look for common interests and then work together, but working together has many more challenges, working together means giving up lot of freedom for people. Look for reasons to stay together and stay together. If you can't figure it out what do you want to do next, see if that's possible within current framework, if not then only look for other options. The chances are you will just stay!
Wild dogs have amazing synchronised hunt, they play their small or big role beautifully, startup is like that, but they fight among themselves in show of strength and put a social hierarchy into system. We can learn from them, there are many thing we can take to practical implementations