I sometimes sit and wonder how things ever got started. I wonder if it’s something that could be reproduced, or if it was just a luck of the draw.
What I do realize however is that alone I don’t believe much could have been accomplished. In the beginning there were three of us at our company, today there are two. Alone however, would have likely been disastrous for any of us.
Even in the beginning, before my involvement. There was a dynamic between the pair. One was highly technical, the other was also technical but highly artistic. It worked at the time, it was what was needed to move in a direction (right or wrong is indifferent).
With time, things have changed, yet again we find ourselves with one pair. One is still highly technical, the other somewhat technical but more business focused. Again though, it works. It balances the scales and provides good momentum forward.
The Five Things I’ve Learned About Pairs
I never gave it much thought until a trip to San Francisco last year when I attended the Sales Hacker Conference. While Sales orientated, I was listening to Jason M. Lemkin’s talk about hiring Sales professionals and one of the things he mentioned was, “Always hire your sales people in pairs”.
I found this a curious statement, but I’ve been giving a lot of thought and it’s finally starting to make sense. Here are my thoughts on the power of two…
1. Pairs provide balance
In my experience working in a pair has proven to be most effective, if the pair is good. You have to remember though that the pair you start with might not be the pair you end up with. There must be a good relationship between each, but not one where everything is always symbiotic. Especially in the beginning, it’s ok to butt heads; just be sure you can come to consensus. Like a marriage, it’s mostly about compromise. If no one is willing to compromise, then there is little trust and little will be accomplished.
If I could only tell you the number of times we each had a crazy idea, but through discussion we were able to make a decision we could live by. Sometimes it wasn’t the one we wanted or cared for, but we have enough trust in each other to respect a direction. The beauty is the perspective each person brings to table. For instance, when it’s something technical / security related I go to my partner for his counsel. He provides me what I like to call the no-BS version, stripped of all fancy words and disclaimers. He is also one that loves to question the norm, which I find a beautiful process. He challenges me to think beyond what I believe to be normal, based on my previous experiences.
I have no idea what value I bring him, so I’ll just keep soaking it all up. So at least it’s balance for me.. :)
2. Gives you a good baseline
This is more for when you hire, but even when you’re starting out.
When you hire one, you really don’t know if the person is doing good or bad. To you, you just see work. You think they’re doing good, but you really don’t know. Granted, sometimes it’s pretty freaking obvious they suck. If you hire two though, at the same time, you can quickly gauge good and bad. I’m sure there will be a number of folks that say, of course you know, etc… etc… Regardless, it’s a challenge and setting a baseline, in my experience, is always easier with two. Even when it’s just you and your partner.
3. Encourages competition
This is actually one of my favorites. Maybe it’s because I’m a competitive guy.
Competition should not be a bad thing, and I believe it should be encouraged. Me and my partner thrive on this. Just today we were talking about how we’re going to start running daily when he moves closer. He called me while on the run and I was telling him my time is an average of 8:20 / mile. It’s gotten him on the treadmill as of late, because he hates to lose. This same mindset bleeds into how we work together. He calls me with a killer feature he built, and I find myself sitting there thinking, “Damn, his news is better than mine.”
It gets us excited, it gets the blood flowing. He loves to push little releases, trying to see how long before I notice, and that keeps me on my toes; I respond in kind. Regardless, this is fun engagement for us. I feel it fosters creativity and after doing it for so many years, keeps us in sync.
4. Introduces positive peer pressure
I don’t remember where I got this term, but I love it. We are all familiar with the term negative peer pressure, or where other force you to do something you shouldn’t. It only makes sense, at least to me, that you should have something that does the opposite.
The way it works is simple. You do awesome work, this positiveness bleeds into the rest of the team, into the pair. I see you do awesome work, then I want to do awesome work. Same as if I see someone doing something bad, and everyone starts doing something bad, then the odds are I’m going to do something bad. If everyday person A is kicking butt and closing deals, or building awesome stuff, but person B has nothing to show for the work. Either the person realizes they are not a fit, or they find out the hard way. It’s almost self regulating and helps build an environment you’re proud of.
It must start at the top, your employees look at you and when you’re at the top you have to be the most focused one.
5. Someone to lean on
I think creating a company from the ground up is perhaps one of the exhausting and exhilarating experiences any person can go through. If you fail, it hurts. If you succeed, it hurts, but in a different way. It’s a tough road; it can be lonely, it can break you down, it can make you cry, it can make you sick, it can make you want to cut your losses and call it quits. When working in a pair though, in a good pair, you both pick each other up.
You have those tough conversations. “Bro, you’re cranky, what’s going on?” “Dude, you sound like crap, seriously get off line!!” Me and my partner have this joke, “Oh, you’re having a good day? Perfect, let me share with you my misery…” We only do it half jokingly. I think inside, we just honestly want to share it with someone, sharing it just makes it feel so much better and a good partner helps you carry the burden.
It’s like when you’re in the military, you rarely fight for the cause. You fight for the person next to you. When you’re in a fighting hole, bombs are flying overhead, someone is scared and wants to go home, you pull each other up. Yes, this sucks, but together we will make this work. You with me? That’s often enough to snap out of the funk.
Pairs Are Powerful Combinations
There is one more thing I would add when looking at pairs, that is that not all pairs are the equal and the relationship in the pair evolves over time.
For me, it has been all the difference; it’s provided me the courage to chase dreams that I would have otherwise avoided for fear of failure. A bad combination though can have the opposite affect, both on you and your business or even on the team that you’re forcing it on. If the bond is not there, it’s just not there and you have to be able to quickly identify and rectify it.
The pair you start with, isn’t necessarily the pair you will end up with.