How doing business with others can be your superpower

running a business

Starting from scratch

Starting and running a business from scratch can be a daunting task. How about sharing the “boss” duties with others? Working as co-CEOs in growing your brand can present both unique challenges and opportunities.

When we founded Scissors & Scotch in 2015, none of us had experience in a barbershop, and 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 locations open and dozens more on the way. How was it possible? Below are the tips we got along the way.

Guide your inner child

The first step for any new venture is learning the basics. More precisely, it is the mastery of one’s domain through relentless curiosity. It should not be slow or passive. (If so, consider if you’re passionate enough to excel in this area. Long-term success usually requires a sustainable edge. Without “fire” as your natural energy generator, you’re on track to burn out or fall behind.) Dive in and immerse yourself in quality knowledge like as quickly as possible. Remember, the child immediately asked “why” after each answer? Be that child.

Plan your research before you start your business. Finding answers won’t be productive if you’re asking the wrong questions. With co-founders or co-CEOs, divide and conquer, periodically pausing to share and rebuild. What industries do you work in? For us, it was grooming and (later) franchising, which are two different worlds of business. What specific information are you looking for 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 about previous successes or failures? Who can you meet? What can you read and watch? What are your stopping points where you turn knowledge into action?

Your business cannot “do things differently” if you don’t understand how things have already been done and why.

Accept your weirdness

What is now the core value of Scissors & Scotch began with the concept of using what makes you unique to complement an increasingly cohesive team. The success of every team starts with self-awareness and shared values.

As your company grows, there will be distractions. Who gets the loan? Who is interviewing? And who makes the decisions? A common mistake is to assume that one person is best suited for a role without recognizing that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Your team and processes should be designed around them. While it’s important to have a say, your ultimate goal is to do things right, not just be right.

At Scissors & Scotch, we remind management to never gravitate towards the ideas of like-minded people. Groupthink is poison. Instead, look for dissent and embrace productive disagreement. Surround yourself with smart, driven people who share your “guiding star” of goals, ethics, and habits. When you don’t agree with the final answer, you are often wrong in your assumptions. Dig for it. Combined with strong communication (more on this below), a group of people with different backgrounds, skill sets, and mindsets will generate better solutions through more inclusive thinking.

Confidence is essential in any ambitious endeavor, but don’t let it become an obstacle. Know what you personally bring to the table, and just as importantly, what you don’t. Only then will your stellar team be able to come together.

Communicate Like Champions

Any co-CEO situation brings additional dynamics. Effective communication is critical when there are several highly skilled and opinionated individuals involved in the decision making process. Often, How You are conveying an idea that can be as important as the idea itself.

Each discussion creates a constant stream of diverse business ideas. The solution can be a combination of several sentences, so how do you collectively sort opinions? One of the pillars of every Scissors & Scotch meeting is to focus on “evidence, not positions.” In other words, what justifies your idea? What do you suppose? For example, don’t say, “I think the answer is A.” Say, “I think the answer is A because B is true and C is true.” If the other person thinks Z is the answer, you will be stuck until you get to a reason (“evidence”) that supports your position.

Another communication trick is to separate the person from the position. Disagreeing with someone does not mean challenging their character. Think of problems as an add-on where everyone tests assumptions and adds information but ends up working towards the same end goal. Rethinking the debate helps to harden the team’s skin, move away from defensive moves, and avoid the natural tendency to “save face” instead of focusing on ideas.

Finally, cheer for the underdog. The best ideas are new, which means they start out as outcasts. Don’t discredit a position because it’s upvoted. Listen to everyone. Even if the end position is not used, smaller parts can be used. Sometimes it’s helpful to think of a big idea as a collection of smaller ideas. When you break it down, what is relevant and useful?

The “best” solution to a problem is hardly ever one person’s starting point, so your meetings shouldn’t be structured like a competition. The best solution is likely to be a hybrid, bringing together the best parts of each person’s idea(s) throughout the discussion.

Create your dream team

Adding decision makers to any team creates new business challenges, but it also raises the ceiling on your team’s performance. Understanding how each person, especially you, can complement a large group leads to a holistic view and smarter decisions. If you can navigate interpersonal dynamics be co-CEOs and create processes that strengthen your communication and teamwork, growing your business together will be your superpower.


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