Co Founder Conflict & Founder Wellness

March 2018 — #Class of 2018, #Rumbi Pfende

Co Founder Conflict & Founder Wellness

I’m a Fellow in the 2017/18 cohort of the Startup Leadership Programme, and honestly when I was selected I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – especially as the cornerstone of the learning process (apart from mentorship, support and access to amazing thought leaders) is delivering one class on a curriculum topic of our choice.

What I’ve in fact discovered is that this type of peer-to-peer entrepreneurial learning is immersive, practical and most significantly, relevant as each ‘class CEO’ ensures they tailor their class to the needs of the cohort. It’s been an enjoyable and educational experience…and I hoped to achieve the same with my class.

Having consulted early-stage founders for over the past 4 years – and including the insight gained from my own first venture – I’m continually struck by how hard it seems to be for most of us (myself included) to be vulnerable about our challenges, or the conflicts we face as we effectively ‘learn on the job’ while we build our dreams.

Conflict and wellness are, in my view, either largely neglected or over-emphasised. Either way, both are a natural part of the startup growth process. So, when we were asked to select the classes we wanted to teach, I knew I which one I wanted. When I selected this topic I knew I didn’t want to focus on the obvious; most commonly what each of us could physically do (e.g. sleep more, or go on a spa day to decompress from occasionally unavoidable stresses). Instead, I set out to empower each of us in some way, by demonstrating through interaction, storytelling and experimentation that we each have the power to control our environment, our situations and our conflicts…and that this is easier than we might think.

The anchor statement of the class was :

Mind + Consciousness + Thought = YOUR REALITY

Through a series of personal examples, thought-provoking questions and class feedback, my guest speakers Claire Sewell and Gary Cole illustrated the power we actually have over our thoughts, and that once we realise this – no matter how great the challenge, dispute or obstacle – we have the power to change the outcome by changing our perception.

Gary opened the class by talking about Ego, and its impact on wellness and conflict. Through presentation and interactivity, and Fellows sharing their experiences, he walked us through how our egos are responsible for how we can over- or under-compensate aspects of our behaviour…therefore negatively (or positively) influence the people around us, and thus their response to us. My key take-away was that we can in fact control ego; all we have to do is choose to.

Claire took over next – and again through interactivity and shared experiences, she helped us understand why and how we have the ability to take our individual power back by altering how we think. For example, being angry with a colleague has less to do with them, and more to do with our false realities and perceptions. If we actively alter thought, we can see the world completely differently and empower ourselves in the moment, in every circumstance we face, and in all facets of our lives.

The most powerful portion of the evening however, was when Liane Katz, my business partner, friend and founder of, shared her personal co-founder story. It was striking how impactful her story was, and how the Fellows could strongly relate. Her willingness to talk not just about the facts, but her feelings at the time and what she learnt abut herself as a result, led to a vibrant discussion about co-founder (and managerial) relationships, attitudes and perception. Our breakout session revolved around small groups analysing Liane’s case study – and using what we had learnt that evening to discern what she could have changed or improved upon.

I personally thoroughly enjoyed the evening. I’d like to think most of us learnt something new, and listening to my Fellows open up and share personal stories taught me more about their thought processes and how they manage the various relationships within their businesses. I also learnt that we’re grappling with similar challenges, and it was encouraging to see that the majority of my cohort are in fact actively looking after themselves (or working on it). It’s clear that we have far more in common than we may realise!