Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis-Wilson are the co-founders of Gilt Groupe, a company that specializes in online sales of luxury apparel at discount prices. Maybank and Wilkis-Wilson described to Forbes why they have been so successful. At first glance, they seem remarkably similar. They even look alike! However, the two co-founders argue that their differences make them stronger. However, it's not just that they have different strengths, but that their abilities and personalities are quite complementary. One plus one equals three, if you will. Here's an excerpt from the Forbes article. A short video is below as well.
“It’s very much like discovering your latter-day stunt double,” Maybank
says of finding the right cofounder. Wilkis-Wilson is detail-oriented, a
task-master who keeps everything running according to schedule, while
Maybank is a self-described “big picture thinker” who is referred to
throughout the new book, out in stores this week, as the “impulsive”
one. “Our differences haven’t just made us a much stronger team but
they’ve allowed us to see what we’re missing and who [else] we need to
bring around us as part of our founding team.”
The story, though, is not as simple as selecting a partner who is different than you. You definitely need someone who shares the same passion for a particular product, technology, or business model. Both co-founders need to care deeply about what they are doing. They have to be passionate about the broader purpose of the enterprise. Moreover, they have be able to communicate well with one another. In this case, the training at Harvard gave them a common language system that certainly facilitated their communications with one another. Finally, both parties have to share a similar work ethic and willingness to carry their share of the load. Once you have those foundations in place, then the complementary strengths can become a huge asset. Without that foundation, though, simply finding someone with complementary skills won't lead to success.