Why you need a co-founder

You've heard of Walt Disney, the affable showman who founded The Walt Disney Company. He's an American icon with a great legacy.

You may not have heard of his older brother, Roy.

Which is a shame, because Roy was the linchpin in the Walt Disney Company's success. It's likely that without Roy, none of Disney's achievements would have happened.

Let me tell you why.

Many don't realize that the Walt Disney Company was co-founded by both brothers: Walt and Roy. They were perfect sidekicks. Walt was an imaginative creative, who loved the spotlight. Roy preferred working in the background, and was a hard-nosed builder.

Walt Disney himself once said: "My brother Roy runs this company. I just piddle around."

The reason Disney survived, and thrived, was because it leveraged the strengths of each brother. Walt could dream up fantastic films, and elaborate theme parks. Roy had the business and financial acumen to make these dreams a reality. Walt was an artist. Roy was a numbers guy.

When Walt ran out of money while making Snow White, Roy secured more.1

When Walt dreamed up Disneyworld, Roy labored to get it built, and did so without incurring any debt.2

"The key to the Walt Disney Company was the partnership of Walt and Roy. Walt knew he couldn’t do what Roy could do, and Roy knew he couldn’t do what Walt could do. So they submitted to each other’s area of expertise and worked together, ultimately for the benefit of the ideas and the benefit of their audience." - Phil Vischer 3

In basements around the world, there are people making stuff. They're tapping away on computers: coding, writing, creating.

But they're doing it all alone.

Us creatives are often solitary. Isolation removes distractions, allowing us to focus on bringing ideas to life.

But when we lone wolves hit a speed bump, many of us stop creating. It's hard to show up every day, by yourself. When there's no one to cheer you on, and no one to be accountable to, it's easier to just give up.

In the past, I've taken the path of the lone creative; but this year I've been forcing myself to partner up on different projects.

I realized that some of the most successful people in business, design and code have partners: Jason Fried and DHH, Larry and Sergey, Hiten Shah and Neil Patel, Jobs and Wozniak, Ben & Jerry, Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman, Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.

My friend Allan Branch says "A good partner makes your ideas better." This is true for the examples I've listed above; could it be true for your ideas as well?

Yes, starting a partnership presents some risks. But wouldn't it be better to find a partner, and give your project a chance, rather than let it die on the vine?

Since January, I've partnered up on two projects: Network Effects (with Marty), and ProductPress (with Carl). Together, we were able to accomplish far more than we could have apart. Namely: we shipped. We were able to make a real thing, and put it out into the world. That alone is a great success.

What about you? When's the last time you shipped something? If you've been laboring on your project for months (or years!) by your lonesome, maybe it's time to find a partner.

You don't have to make it alone.

Here are three ways to start eschewing your lone-wolf status:

  1. Join a community. It could be something like Product People Club, an online forum, or a local meetup.
  2. Start a mastermind. Reach out 2-3 of your peers and ask if they want to start meeting every week on a Google Hangout. Let each person talk about what they accomplished last week, what they want to do this week, and what they're blocked on.
  3. Build something in 7 days. Find a partner, and ask if they want to build a small project with you over a week. Set a start date, an end date, and commit to touching base every day. This is what I did for most of my Build & Launch projects.
Published on March 14th, 2015
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