Any classic rock fan knows the importance of the rhythm guitarist. While the lead singer may get all the glory, the band's foundation rests on the strings of the rhythm guitarist. If childhood friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards never had their fateful meeting at a train station in the '60s, would the world ever have the Rolling Stones?
I met my rhythm guitarist, Wayne Teng, working as a tech consultant in Silicon Valley. After years of working together, we both decided to leave the corporate world behind, and set out in search of our next opportunity. We formed a pop-punk cover band called Timmy Ramen. I played lead guitar, while Wayne kept the rhythm. We weren't great, but we enjoyed playing together. And since we obviously weren't destined to become the next Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin, we wondered how we could work together outside of our pseudo-cover band.
We began toying around with a few entrepreneurial ideas, like a line of ironic (read: inappropriate) t-shirts, and even launched a few "it's like [blank] for [blank]" concepts. With most ventures ending in failures, some less stubborn entrepreneurs would take this as a cue to give up on entrepreneurial success. We didn't, and we now lead a fast-growing, tech-focused franchise business based in Silicon Valley, the mecca of technology and entrepreneurship.
When we launched theCoderSchool in 2014, we had no idea what it would become. As a children's enrichment business, our goal is to make coding more engaging for kids through a project-based curriculum. We hope our students walk away with improved problem solving, logic, ideation and creative thinking skills. Before starting this business, however, I searched for concepts that would provide my own kids with similar skills. Surprisingly, smack in the center of the tech capital of the world, there weren't that many great options. Thus, theCoderSchool was born, and Wayne and I began yet another entrepreneurial venture together.
While we don't have the longevity of rock 'n' roll legends, we have learned a few things during our time together:
Treat your business partnership like a marriage
Much like marrying your best friend, going into business with him or her also has its advantages. While both Wayne and I are happily married to wonderful spouses, our business partnership is like our second marriage. We grew to become friends, and learned a lot about each other both professionally and personally. More importantly, we learned that we had a shared impulse toward entrepreneurship. And thus, we said "I do" to a business partnership.
Know your partner's strengths
One of the reasons Wayne and I work so well together is because we balance each other out. During our short stint playing in a band, we gained an in-depth understanding of the other's strengths and weaknesses. Now, we're strategic about how we divide up our roles. Wayne is the rhythm guitar of the business. He is responsible for keeping things moving. He does so by overseeing theCoderSchool's locations and executing day-to-day activities.
My role is more franchisee-facing. I'm responsible for driving our franchise's strategy and bringing on new franchise partners. In a way, I play the lead guitar; however, if my ideas stray too far from our company's core, Wayne gets me back on tempo. Both of us are great in our respective roles, and it would be difficult for us to successfully to run this business without the other.
Don't keep it professional
We're each personally invested in this company. Literally. Our savings — as well as our blood, sweat and tears — went into getting theCoderSchool off of the ground floor. So Wayne is not afraid to tell me when an idea sucks, and vice versa. Part of that comes from the rapport we have with each other. There's no reason for us to change how we interact when we're making business decisions.
At the same time, we're also franchisors. That means that if a disagreement over a decision, business or otherwise, gets a bit too heated, we won't argue in front of our franchise partners. Ultimately, it's important to have a business partner who supports you in and outside of business.
Have shared objectives
As with most of our business ventures, our goal for theCoderSchool was not to become the next biggest, baddest startup out of Silicon Valley. We aimed to create an environment where kids could explore new skills to help them become more well-rounded individuals. We started with three corporate locations in the Bay Area. After seeing success in our first two years, we decided to launch a franchise opportunity. Today, we operate 10 theCoderSchool locations across five states. When we look for franchise partners we seek passionate individuals who thrive in a community-based environment. As we continue to grow as a business, we keep these objectives in the front of our minds so that we can maintain quality control across our company.
At the end of the day, we're just friends who enjoy working and playing together. We both want this company to continue to succeed. Every project or new initiative won't be perfect, but we support each other through it all.
About the author: Hansel Lynn started theCoderSchool with his rhythm guitarist and best friend Wayne Teng in 2014. The pair has since grown the company to 10 locations with new locations opening soon. Hansel enjoys ideating during five-hour runs on mountain trails, and spending time with his wife Lisa and three awesome kids. He is also a franchisee of a Palo Alto-based music performance concept School of Rock. To learn more about theCoderSchool, visit thecoderschool.com and follow theCoderSchool on Facebook.
Edited for brevity and clarity by Nicole Fallon.