Strength in Numbers: How Running a Business with Others Can Become Your Superpower

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship Startup Advice / December 16, 2022
running a business

Starting From Scratch

Starting and running a business from scratch can be a daunting task. How about if you have to share the “boss” responsibilities with others? Working as co-CEOs while growing your brand can present both unique challenges and opportunities.

When we founded Scissors & Scotch in 2015, none of us had any barbershop experience, and we had even less knowledge of franchising. We were just three friends with an idea. Fast-forward eight years later, and we’ve grown to a national franchise with 24 open locations with several dozen more on the way. How was this possible? Below are pieces of advice we’ve picked up along the way.

Channel Your Inner Child

Step one for any new venture is learning the ropes. More accurately, it’s mastering your domain through relentless curiosity. It shouldn’t be slow or passive. (If it is, reconsider whether you’re passionate enough to excel in this area. Long-term success typically requires a sustained advantage. Without “fire” as your natural power generator, you’re on the road to burnout or falling behind.) Immerse yourself and soak in quality knowledge as quickly as possible. Remember the kid immediately asking “why” after every answer? Be that kid.

Set a plan for your research before you start running a business. Finding answers isn’t productive if you’re asking the wrong questions. With co-founders or co-CEOs, divide and conquer, pausing periodically to share and realign. What industries are you in? For us, it was men’s grooming and (later) franchising, which are two different business worlds. What specific information are you seeking and where will you look? Who are the leading companies and people? Are there relevant publications for news and ideas? Are there articles or books on prior successes or failures? Who can you meet? What can you read and watch? What are your stopping points, where you turn knowledge into action?

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Your business can’t “do things differently” if you don’t understand how things are already done and why.

Embrace Your Weird

What’s now a Scissors & Scotch core value began as the concept of leveraging what makes you unique, so you complement an increasingly well-rounded team. The success of every team starts with self-awareness and shared values.

As your company grows, so will the distractions. Who gets the credit? Who takes interviews? And who makes decisions? A common mistake is suggesting one individual is best for a role without recognizing everyone brings specific strengths and flaws. Your team and processes should be designed around them. While it’s important to have a voice, your ultimate goal is to get things right, not just be right.

At Scissors & Scotch, we remind our leadership team never to gravitate to like-minded ideas. Groupthink is poison. Instead, seek out dissent and embrace productive disagreement. Surround yourself with intelligent, driven people who share your “North Star” of goals, ethics, and habits. When you disagree on a final answer, you’re often misaligned on an assumption. Dig for it. When accompanied by strong communication (more on that below), a group of individuals with different backgrounds, skill sets, and thought patterns will generate better solutions through more well-rounded thinking.

Confidence is necessary with any ambitious undertaking, but don’t let it become a hurdle. Know what you personally bring to the table, and just as important, what you don’t. Only then can your all-star team come together.

Communicate Like Champs

Any co-CEO situation brings additional dynamics to the table. With multiple highly capable and opinionated individuals involved in decision-making, effective communication is crucial. Often, how you convey an idea can be just as important as the idea itself.

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Every discussion produces a steady stream of diverse ideas for running a business. The solution might be a combination of multiple suggestions, so how do you collectively sort through opinions? One pillar of every Scissors & Scotch meeting is to focus on “proof, not positions.” In other words, what justifies your idea? What do you assume? For example, don’t say, “I think A is the answer.” Say, “I think A is the answer because B is true and C is true.” If another person thinks Z is the answer, you’ll remain at an impasse until you get to the foundation (the “proof”) supporting the position.

Another communication trick is to separate the person from the position. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t mean challenging their character. See challenges as an additive, where everyone is stress-testing assumptions and adding information but ultimately working toward the same end goal. Reframing debates helps thicken the team’s skin, drop the defensiveness and avoid natural tendencies to “save face” instead of focusing on the ideas.

Finally, root for the underdog. The best ideas are new, meaning they’ll start as an outcast. Don’t discredit a position because it’s outvoted. Hear everyone out. Even if the ultimate position isn’t used, smaller details might be. Sometimes it helps to think of a larger idea as a collection of smaller ideas. When you break it down, what’s relevant and usable?

The “best” solution to a problem is hardly ever one individual’s initial stance, so your meetings shouldn’t be structured as a competition. The best solution will more likely be a hybrid, combining the best pieces from each person’s idea(s) throughout the discussion.

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Design Your Dream Team

Adding decision-makers to any team presents new challenges to running a business, but it also raises your team’s performance ceiling. Recognizing how each individual—especially you—can complement the larger group leads to a well-rounded perspective and smarter decisions. If you can navigate the interpersonal dynamics of being co-CEOs and create processes that bolster your communication and teamwork, growing your business together will become your superpower.

About The Author

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Sean Finley is the co-founder of Scissors & Scotch.

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