From the time we start taking field trips in school it is etched into our head. There is a whole genre of great movies considered “buddy flix”. And if you ever meet a person named “Buddy” I would wager you are predisposed to like them. At its core the buddy system consists of the recognition that two is better than one. At some point however, in a world where individual achievement is so celebrated, the value of having someone at your side can sometimes get lost. It shouldn’t be.
I have been a long time proponent of co-founders. Down here in New Orleans I have seen a lot of single founder startups. No disrespect to the talented founders here in the Crescent City but being a founder is hard. Without a buddy it is even harder. Having a co-founder gives you someone to be real with, someone to call you on your shit and someone to hold you accountable. This is not about mentorship or coaching this is quite simply a mirror whose reflection of yourself you trust.
Since I assumed the role of CEO of VL Group eighteen months ago I have essentially been a solo founder, the very thing I have advocated against. Here is how I am coping.
Step 1: Find One
One way to do this is to look for the “no one understands me” expression as you talk to others at those painful networking events. Glance around the Meetup you are at and nod at the exhausted person at the other end of the bar. Other founders are a great source of buddies but not the only one. IMHO the criteria for this role is only what was listed above, not a mirror image of yourself, so look at who is around you right now. Here is a helpful test. If you were to explain a problem you were facing and their response would be greeted by a voice in head that says, “you don’t get it” that is not your buddy.
Step 2: Weigh Yourself In Public
Once you have found one the next step is to make sure that not only can they give you real feedback on what you do but also that they are empowered to give you shit for what you don’t do. One easy trick to get the most out of your mirror is to give them a list of questions to ask you when you meet. Have them ask you about the things that are important to you. WeightWatcher’s differentiator for the longest time was the peer weigh-ins. The peer accountability was the key to results and it is the same with me. My buddy asks me a series of quick question when we talk. Mine are about how I am taking care of myself, what I am reading, and if I am writing (yes, are you reading this?). These are things that I said were important to me and having to answer these questions out loud won’t let me forget it.
Step3: Be One!
The role of buddy is and important one and in the spirit of paying it forward you should be one. The best way to understand the value added by having one is to find a friend, hold them accountable and applaud when they achieve their goals.