Answer by Mark Alan Effinger:

"Immediately after he gives you the source code…"

(Sorry, I just had to).

This is just an awful question. Really.

If you're serious about being an entrepreneur, you should be asking "How can I find the common thread between me and my cofounder so we can attack this market and make this succeed."

Quick story: At one time I had a fast-growing laser company. Along the way, I had met a guy who was a kick-ass Silicon Valley-bred entrepreneur. Eventually I hired him as a consultant to me as we grew. Less than a year into it, he asked to buy the company and form a new entity, with cash and with me retaining 1/3rd of the equity.

As we assembled a team, distributing options to everyone, and growing to 20-30+ employees, I became overwhelmed with all of the details of people management and my own (at the time) degrading health (note to self: Don't think you're indomitable at 30 after working 60-80 hour weeks for years on end. Eventually your body will reject you).

Anyhow, Wyatt was asking me to increase my commitment, and I was playing my B game. Sometimes my C game. Basically, I was like a functional boat anchor, relegated to working 70% of the time from my home office.

I hated Wyatt for pushing me to perform better. But, in retrospect, I can't believe he was as forgiving as he was.

The year before we shut the company down (from an unrelated series of hires and events), Wyatt came to me and offered to purchase my shares at a reasonable discount, so he could engage more investors. He did so to both make good on last payments of the financial agreement we had made between us. And to provide me the resources to launch my next company (I had shared the idea with him over dinner, and he agreed it was a cool opportunity).

When he was consulting to my startup, he handed me Stephen R. Covey's classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He said "read this. If you and I can agree on this model, we can build a business together."

So we used that as the basis for our agreements, management principles and how we treated our employees, partners and investors. It was a solid process.

And I was not playing my A-Game. I was slacking.

Wyatt should have fired me.
He had every reason to.
Yet, he believed I'd make it through.

He found a place for me to play that added value to the company. And kept me involved. Even when I didn't recognize more than half of the employees (because I didn't hire them).

When should you fire your cofounder?
Somewhere between "never" and "when he/she is ready to leave."

It's not about firing them.
It's about ensuring that you've done everything possible to help them succeed. And you've established when and why they need to go. And you both agree to it.

There are plenty of extenuating circumstances that aren't provided here. So I could be totally talking out of my butt.

But… make sure it's for the right reasons. And that you're doing it right right way. Unless you're one badass CEO who is a recruiting machine who can raise funds on a whim and people are banging down your door to work for you, firing a cofounder can be a serious hindrance in moving forward.

As can keeping a cofounder who is dead weight.

I don't envy your position (been there more than once).
But I DO wish you great success.

EPILOGUE: Wyatt went on to found Tripwire, Inc (a leader in packet detection systems for internet security), and SignaCert (bought by Harris Corporation in 2010).

Cancer took his life in 2014

I hated him for many years for pushing me so hard.
Then came to realize, as I built dot-coms and helped fund startups, how invaluable his coaching was to my own success.

He taught me, by example, how to be an A player.
When, instead, he could have just as easily fired me.

Keep that in mind as you approach your cofounder.…

When should I fire my cofounder?


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