Need your advice: Co-founder misses meetings without notice, what should I do?


I have a cofounder, he is an excellent engineer, and a good person, our values are almost 100% aligned, and he is putting work into the project.

However, he has this habit of not responding to his phone, WhatsApp, or anything else, misses meetings without any notice, and could go for a good couple of days without replying to me.

Before working together, I was very clear that communication is vital to me, and we agreed on this.

However, during the past 2 months, I remember that this happened at least 4 times, 3 out of 4 he had very good reasons to not be present, but, no reason for not giving notice.

I don’t have a problem if he misses the meeting since he does work on the project, However, I feel very disrespected when that happens. I really don’t like that, and I have politely mentioned that this behavior affects my productivity and makes me quite unhappy and not willing to work at all.

I don’t think that he doesn’t care about the way I think about this problem, but I think that he does underestimate how much it does affect me. It affects me to an extent that I don’t want to work with him anymore, maybe this feeling is wrong and this is why I am seeking advice.

I hope you share your thoughts on how to tackle this issue, and if I am exaggerating in my response.

  1. 9

    A low-skilled partner with high determination and discipline is way better than a highly-skilled partner with no discipline.

    1. 1

      totally agree. However, it is important to mention that he does have discipline. I would say he is more disciplined than I am, but only when we DO WORK. both of us already have a full-time jobs and a family. we both know that if we don't meet, we will miss working on the product. Usually, he is disciplined, but sometimes he glitches. My issue is not about the glitches, but how it comes. I don't have an issue if he or I miss work, I have a problem that we don't communicate and align our expectations. do u get my point?

      1. 1

        Ahh! I got it. You guys just need to communicate or meet more often then :)

  2. 6

    You should use Asana.


    Be async-friendly so you can start getting the work done. If you have an engineer on your team, expect that engineers don't like people, they like tools. They don't want to talk as much. Use Asana for your insanity so you can establish async-friendly communication protocols that easily communicate what is important and only use meetings when you need to.

    That is the point of INDIEhacker. LESS MEETINGS. MORE DOING.

    1. 3

      Totally agree with this. I switch off notifications for a large part of the day. I hate context-switching, and I'd rather stick to a predefined calendar (ex., daily standup) than reply to chats every 5 minutes (especially on the phone!).

      With that said, this is not a justification for skipping planned meetings. This can also be due to personal issues, so I'd try chatting with the co-founder openly about it.

    2. 1

      I agree with you, I am an engineer myself and I have been managing engineers for the past 5 years. However, the issue is mainly about two things:
      1- the personal relationship part: I don't want to be direct with him to an extent that can risk our relationship, this is mainly why I am asking for outsider advice so that I avoid a biased reaction
      2- Commitment and reliability: these are not ad-hoc meetings, these are planned meetings that he suggested and it seems like its the only way that BOTH OF US can get the work done since both of us are very busy already.

      1. 2

        This thread makes sense for me as well as for person who was engineer and managing engineers. Async communication is essential part for productive work.

        I remember myself when I struggled with useless regular rallies that were all agreed upon (maybe not your case).

        The reason for this was the lack of open and direct communication. When people agree or suggest something to avoid really important and hard conversations about what they really care about. It always ends the same way, cumulative tension and conflict and and if people, even under these conditions, are not able to overcome it and talk about important things, this leads to break up.

        So I advice you find the right words in yourself to talk about what is important to you with your partner, and also listen to what is important to him. Because what you stated in the first paragraph may be related to what you are afraid of.

        Wish you to find a connection with your partner.

        1. 1

          thanks a lot for your thoughts and kind wishes

  3. 4
    1. If he doing his part of work correctly and on time then just ignore him for some months to see where it goes. Some people are built different.

    2. Try to engage with him later and ask what future he sees for the company. Atleast you will know if he is serious or not.

    1. 1

      I will probably do just that

  4. 3

    Try asking him earnest questions as to why he's doing this . Be up front with how important this is to you and try to set some expectations going forward you both agree are reasonable.

    If 3 months passes and you've seen no improvement (as defined by your metrics) walk away.

    Your in the very early (fun) stages. If you can't get on the same page now, you'll absolutely hate your life when there's actual stress involved.

  5. 3

    This is a good/low-stakes opportunity to work on you and your cofounders' conflict resolution. I don't think it's the biggest deal in the world, but it's bothering you at least a little bit and that's worth a discussion and open communication. Depending on how it goes, the exercise will make next time easier

    1. 1

      Very true, this is why I wanted to ask before I get into the conversation. I wanted to make sure that I get enough advice and opinion to avoid any biased decision/opinion.

  6. 3

    I was in your engineer's position. I stopped being interested and I didn't know how to bring up that I wanted to quit. Since you're on sales and marketing, I assume he partnered up because he isn't social. He probably wants to quit.

    1. 1

      Maybe I need to have this conversation with him

  7. 3

    My advice might save you time and energy, but talk to the engineer first.

  8. 3

    What's the work split here? What's your responsibilities and area of work? Are you both engineers?

    1. 1

      50 50
      I am the PM and responsible for the tech part, he is responsible for the content, we are trying to build a community-based product, and currently we in building the community stage.
      yes both of us are engineers

      1. 1

        It's not my business but imo go find yourself another partner. It's obvious that you both have different work styles. You seem to be more organized and tidy, while your partner is more "free-spirit"

        For example, I wouldn't want to work with you as well. :) I have ADHD, and you can't make me sit on something same time every day and expect me to focus and work.

        Both me and my partner also techies. And we barely talk. We live in other countries and we cover each others' work if necessary. We have a general backlog and we pick the task based on importance order 1 by 1. When we discuss stuff we usually don't talk until we finish or run into a problem :)

        Why I said that? You need to find someone like you imo. In my case we both have our personal chaotic order. We discuss stuff but get back to our chaos with plans at hand. And do not come back again before we are done with it. It works because we both have pretty much the same style, worldview, and work ethic.

        1. 2

          thanks for putting the time to help me with your valuable feedback. just to be fair, he is way tidier than I am, waaaaaaay better. However, I feel that our product is the 2nd priority to him, but 1st to me, and if this is true, then it can be the main cause for this to happen, no idea.

          Thanks for sharing your story, I would die if I work like that :D but I am happy to learn that this work style exists and working. I wish all the success to you guys.

  9. 2

    I have dealt with this, my previous companies co-founder did this. you can't really do anything about it. He misses it because it's not a priority for him/her.

  10. 2

    People skills are just as important as communication. Learning to deal with how people work is important to them and to a business. As long as they're doing the work and putting the 'shift' in then I'd work out an agreement.

    1. 1

      Very true and very good advice Oran, thanks a lot for sharing it

  11. 2

    If he's still doing the work, I'd just learn to deal with it. What else can you do? I mean if you part ways, you have 1 less person to work on the project & he will still have equity. So it will be like, you're working for him, for free.

    It's really hard to stay motivated without being paid, as well. Perhaps raising some seed money, and using it to pay you and him both a salary would go a long ways to resolving this issue.

    1. 1

      I agree with you, In fact, the whole point wasn't about getting the job done, but rather about commitment if we agreed on something, but I get your point.

  12. 2

    If you are sure he means well and is still delivering what he supposed to deliver, maybe you don't need to bother each other as much as you think you should?
    Just a thought. Like others said, it is nice to have a good convo with open minds

  13. 2

    From my perspective you need to discuss your values. Create a values charter. You have a lot of things in common. I would build on the things that you agree on. Then hold a retro on what's happened recently. I'm sure there's more to it than that. There always is. You guys are in this together moving towards the same goal. No one should be afraid to have a direct and proper conversation about this. I feel like going to absolutes like "I don't want to work with him" is almost like saying that there's an underlying belief that he may be doing this on purpose. I'm not saying you believe that, but that's the foundation of your statement. You don't know what you don't know and every relataionship requires clear comms.

    1. 1

      That is a good comment, maybe I should think on my own as well about how am I perceiving the situation, thanks a lot

  14. 2

    If your co-founder is consistently missing meetings without notice, it's important to have a conversation with them to discuss why this is happening and to come up with a plan to ensure that it doesn't continue.One option is to establish a policy where if someone is going to miss a meeting, they need to let the other members know in advance. This way, everyone is on the same page and no one is left in the dark. If your co-founder is unwilling to work on this issue, then it may be time to consider finding a new partner.
    Regards: softwarezpro.net/

    1. 1

      Thanks softwarezpro for your valuable contribution. much appreciated, thanks for your time.

  15. 2

    I'd really communicate this to them today.

    Have uncomfortable conversations now instead of difficult conversations later

    1. 1

      how would you approach this conversation given you already mentioned before that this kind of behavior does cause you to be uncomfortable?

      1. 2

        And I say uncomfortable because it's something you'd rather not do (I was in that position last week!)

      2. 2

        So we have catch-ups every couple of days to see how we're each feeling about the direction of our startup, you can suggest this (it's a good way of each person voicing any concerns they have in the way you're operating)

        Reg. conversation - start something like...
        "I think we need to be a bit more async and quicker with our communication because we lose momentum when we're waiting for replies. Wanted to raise this now as opposed to later when we're in the habit of it, what do you think?"

        1. 1

          good suggestions, thanks cerwind

  16. 2

    Hey Belal,

    I'm a tech guy and I'm having the same issues with my friend with whom we designed and developed monitup.com.

    I've moved away from the technical side because of MonitUp, I'm actually a software developer, but I haven't had the opportunity to develop code for a long time.

    Technical guys just hang around a bit and their communication skills are generally weak.

    I'm going to make a big investment presentation next month and I've been preparing for it for months, but my friend says "maybe I can't come, I'm busy". Is it because he doesn't believe in the project? Or is it that he doesn't respect the work you do?


    He's a technical guy and he has different priorities, he doesn't care about what works, how satisfied the customer is, how difficult and important it is to find new customers. All he cares about is the jobs assigned to him and their completion in some way.

    So, I suggest you accept your co-founder as such, don't try to change him, you will get tired. Try to do what you expect of him or find someone else to do it.

    Motivation is very important, don't lose it.

    Good luck.

    1. 1

      thanks a lot for sharing your opinion, I think that you also have a point. maybe the reason why I think of it is that we both have equal equity. but I will keep your opinion in mind. teşekkürler

  17. 2

    I think you should try to know from him, why is he doing that(reason), and afterward you can think of how to tackle it(solution).

  18. 2

    From past experience with 2 co-founders in a pre-seed funded startup and paid employees:

    To start, in my opinion you can ignore most advice that compares your situation with a manager-employee or colleague-colleague situation. You're co-founders who are supposed to help each other grow your business. You have a 1001 problems to tackle, and performance issues of your co-founders should not be one of them.

    Having said that, I think it's natural that every founder goes through periods of doubts, motivational problems, or personal situations that affect his/her work. Sometimes, these can be overcome, sometimes not. The best solution is to be extremely direct to each other about expectations, and how you come across to each other.

    My advice (just to consider as one of the many suggestions in the comment section):
    Have a serious conversation with your co-founder. Make sure he understands it's a serious conversation, share your examples, and what you expect instead.

    Most importantly: Be prepared to separate ways. I read in the comments you can't do this without a co-founder, but starting a business with the wrong co-founder is not going to work either.

    1. 1

      thanks a lot for sharing your opinion. Honestly, he doesn't have a performance issue, or at least, both of us has performance issues when it comes to meeting deadlines, otherwise, he does as well as me - except when he disappears -, so my issue is more about reliability and communication that performance, which is, in my opinion, more important. But as you said, I think the way to go is to talk to him.
      If you have any advice on how to approach it in the best possible way, yet make it dead serious. as I said, I do respect this person and under no means, I would want to have anything affect our normal and personal relationship.

      1. 2

        To me, "performance" can be very broad, more than just the work you deliver.

        It's difficult to say how you should approach your co-founder because what works is different for every person and situation. In general, this is what always helped me:
        Explain how you experience the situation, how it makes you feel, and how it affects you. This achieves two things:

        1. You convey the seriousness of the situation without outright saying "you were wrong" and without leaving things up for debate (you can't argue about somebody's feelings).
        2. You leave plenty of room for the other person to explain their side of the story, or to admit their faults without completely losing face.
        1. 1

          thanks a lot for your suggestions, it is indeed very helpful

  19. 2

    Not sure how much my advice can help but a simple solution is to connect with him more informally. Talk to him more frequently and casually. Soon you will make him understand and clear the issue.

    1. 1

      Actually, this is very good advice. frankly, he is already a friend, a good one, and I always struggled with communication with him. But I made it clear from day 1 that this can't happen in our startup, but it does happen every now and then. That is the issue.

      Anyway, I really appreciate you putting the time to respond on me, thanks a lot

  20. 2

    I've had an employee who was a software engineer and he behaved much the same way. He would often call in sick and just disappear. But when I picked him up in person and we'd rent a room to work in for some days near the place where he lived, during those in person hours, he would GET SHIT DONE.

    If you guys are co-founders, you could also turn around the whole thing. Tell him that you'll just go to your office when he actively writes you that he's coming too. When he doesn't write you, don't work yourself. Show him how important it is for the business to behave like an actual TEAM.

    If he still doesn't learn, you can talk with him about more severe consequences - worst case, you will stop working together.

    1. 1

      I agree with you and seems like this is how it is going to end up, but I don't want to go in that direction. In fact, I am seeking advice so that others can spot other directions to resolve this and make things better.
      In addition, I don't want to hurt the product while I am trying to solve this, we have around 12 other volunteers who write content for us, and I don't want to mess up everything that they would leave.

  21. 2

    I think a shared calendar can help.
    But it depends upon the person.

  22. 2

    Lots of things to unpack here

    • Is he being paid by the business
      -- If so then the way he's behaving isn't acceptable. If he's NOT being paid and had a dayjob to contend with then maybe it forgiveable
    • Are YOU overbearing?
      -- Are you the kinda partner who is asking every 5 minutes for updates and status reports? If so then maybe he is going radio silent out of protest.
    1. 1

      1- he isn't being paid
      2- no I am not, I only check during our daily working hours, we agreed to work together 2 hours every day at a specific place - in person - the issue is that it does happen that he doesn't show up at all, no notice doesn't pick up the phone, it can take up to 2 days until I hear back, and when he calls back, he says sorry and act as nothing every happened.

      1. 1

        I only check during our daily working hours

        How often?

        1. 1

          I review what we should do before we start, and we wrap up what we have done at the end. In the middle, it is only friendly conversation about life if a chat comes up, otherwise, both of us are working

          1. 1

            Seems likely he's just a bit of an ass then. You need to have a frank discussion and make it clear it's not ok. You should also seek clarity on why he's goes dark for days at a time.

            1. 1

              yeah, as I said, it is definitely not okay to behave like that - I don't think that he is an ass though, I think somehow he doesn't understand how much it affects me.

              However, I have much respect for him as a friend, and as an engineer, as I mentioned, our values are almost 100% aligned, as well as our vision.

              In addition, I will not be able to run it all alone. This is why I am asking for advice to see how best to handle the situation, and what are the suggestions for approaching such a conversation.

              I have already made it clear that this kind of behavior does irritate me, I am trying to make sure that I try everything before I have to have an ugly conversation that can affect our good relationship.

              1. 2

                His poor communication would frustrate the heck out of me too. I think you need to address it directly. You don't have to be a jerk about it or be confrontational but you should be clear and direct. Kindly remind him of your agreements, let him know the impact of not showing up and not communicating, try to find out why he's not communicating and if there's a way to make it easier for him, and let him know that the communication needs to improve for this to work. Maybe you could setup a system that reminds him about the meeting and checks in with him a little while before.

                1. 3

                  I think it's important to understand both sides. Perhaps being in constant contact irritates HIM? So the conversation should not be "this is irritating me so you need to change".

                  It should be "how are you finding this working setup? is anything bothering you? is there anything you'd like to change?"

                  That will allow him to safely put his cards on the table without feeling attacked. and then its up to the two of you how to proceed.

                  1. 2

                    I very much like the way you laid out the question Primer, I think that was the single answer I was looking for. my main concern was to find a way to approach the issue without being a jerk, but also to understand why is this happening before having to be very direct about how it affects me.
                    Thanks a lot
                    The only remaining issue then is how to tell him seriously "If you tell me you are available at x time, then I must be able to reach you, and if for any reason you change your plans and couldn't pick up on me, then you need to call me back or respond to me once you are available "
                    I am not trying to control him here, but we both agreed that we are reachable from x to y o'clock, then, when I call during that time, I still can't reach him and he often doesn't call back.

                  2. 2

                    I second this opinion very much. There could be an issue that is not suitable to him as well or his style and he can't address it clearly. The conversation needs to go both ways to find out what works for both of you, taking both your personality types into account and finding something that works for both of you. If this is his communication style then you will have to either work your way around it or you can separate as well as friends cause changing this won't be very easy and can sometimes be temporary and he wall fall back to his habits. Make sure you understand him too.

                    1. 1

                      Thanks a lot, Linkology, I totally agree with you. we are very different in personality, and maybe I should always keep that in mind.

  23. 1

    Perhaps your co-founder prefers to work alone and after spending hours on his day job he doesn’t want this to feel like another office.

    My advice to you would be to meet him like a friend and not a colleague, try to approach this topic as softly as possible without putting the blame on anyone and ask if there are any underlying concerns due to which he isn’t appearing for the meetings and if you can be of any help to him.

  24. 1

    You are married to your co-founder and there will be ups and downs. Make sure your relationship is not all about work, spend time going out to drink beer or whatever you like doing together. Your co-founder could have challenges that are not even related to work. This will happen if you are working with them for a long time. So be there for your co-founder as a good friend. Your co-founder will stay with you in good and bad times.

  25. 1

    Reading between the lines it seems like you might be trying to be his manager. Calling him, messaging him and setting up meetings with him. After years of being a manager you likely just fall into this behavior naturally. The co-founder relationship shouldn't be this way.

    It is quite likely to me you are putting subtle pressure on him to deliver way beyond the one part-time unpaid engineer level. Just asking when something will be done is adding pressure.

    1. 1

      Well, I don't think that I am doing that, at least I hope so and I will check if I every gave that impression. Thanks a lot.

  26. 1

    Honestly, if this is just happening recently, they probably are going through some personal issues. Find out if everything is ok with them.

    Maybe they need to stop working on the product, but remember the person first. Products come and go. But a good relationship with people can last for a long time and help you out down the road.

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot for pointing that out. This is exactly why I made this post, because, for me, maintaining our relationship is way more important to me and I wanted to make sure that I approach this situation in the most friendly yet serious and clear manner.

  27. 1

    Give him/her a chance and hear her issue. Then decide something.

  28. 1

    An interesting but often overlooked angle is to understand how other people's brain work actually. In this particular situation - maybe he has ADHD or another sort of condition that could prevent him from being reliable by not being able to plan ahead?
    How long have you known each other? Is this a recent change in his behavior?

  29. 1

    Well, if you don't want to work with him then there's your answer.

    Until you reached that point there were a few good suggestions in this thread, but it's a little late for all that now and that ship has sailed.

    Maybe address the issue sooner next time and there will be something to salvage?


  30. 1

    Work to standardize Communciation Engagement Methods and Acceptable / Normalized Behaviors (What is Acceptable and / or Common Operating Procedures :)).

    I am sure that your engineer and developer needs to focus and meditate out and also have periods of non-interruption. I as a programmer (and an augistic one at that ;)), know that I do.

    Basically -- standardize your appointment times and methods of engagement.

  31. 1

    As a programmer, I get both sides.

    You're not involved in the tech, so I understand that you feel the need to understand and be on top of literally everything at all times but there's a super fine line between wanting to be in control of everything (impossible) and micromanaging. If you're always wanting meetings, updates, etc, it's super draining as a dev. Even a catch up once per week is still a bit too much as a solo dev.

    Talk to him and maybe even check in on your friend - you have no idea what he may be going through.

    Accept that you don't understand the tech, understand that it takes a super long time to write any form of software, and allow him to build before he leaves you completely.

  32. 0

    I think the most essential is question to answer is why this is happening. Is he just in a tunnel and deeply focusing on some stuff? Are you doing to much meetings? Are the meetings not relevant for him or are the topics uncomfortable for him (some sales stuff)?

    If you have a answer for this questions you will probably come up quite easy with a proper solution.

    1. 1

      I agree with you, and I will make sure to tap on these questions next time I can meet him.

  33. 0

    No one will ever love your project as much as you. However, if your tone with your co-founder is the same as in this message then he has little respect for you. You do not present yourself as a leader in this message, and people want to follow a strong leader. Once a person doesn't have respect for you it is very difficult to get it back. The best thing you can do is tell your Co-founder that he is off the project plain and simple. But first tell him that you are in the process of looking for someone to replace him. Either he will leave on his own or double back and get his act together. Either way there will me no more ambiguity and you'll know where you stand.

    Sitting in limbo waiting because you feel like you need a person more than they need you is a complete waste of time. You don't want to ever be that type of leader. People respond more favorably when they feel that they need you more than you need them. It's just human nature. This is from my experience as I had a similar issue with a developer partner who was working on a project with me. I let this person go and my project started moving much quicker. If you let them people will waste your time. You can leave the door open for your co-founder to come back but it's not likely that he will, as he is probably looking for a way out anyway.

    I hope this comment helps, and good luck if you take my advice.

    Very Best,
    Michaelson William, TSX

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