At first, Andy and Sam Prochazka may seem like a regular pair of twins. They bounce off each other easily in conversation and laugh together over contradicting memories of the past. However, these two share more than just their DNA and memories. They’re also the co-founders of two of Canada’s leading lifestyle DTC brands: Article and GoodMorning.com. For #NationalSiblingsDay, Bay Street Bull sat down with Andy and Sam Prochazka to talk about their intertwined lives as twins and co-founders.
As children, the pair often found themselves working on projects together, fascinated with creating new things. At one point, Sam even built a bridge across a local creek (though it eventually washed away). Their curiosity and creativity led them to attend the University of Alberta to study computer engineering. And while Andy says that Sam was the better student, both held onto a keen sense of creativity.
“We recognized that the grown-up outlet of that instinct [to build new things] is business development,” says Andy. “There was a transitional period of moving from the childhood projects that we were constantly up to and realizing there’s this free market out there—the sky’s the limit.”
Working together and apart
The two began their first “real” venture into entrepreneurship with real estate software company, RealPageMaker. In the beginning, both Andy and Sam agreed to see each other as equals within the company; each had a fair share of input on decisions. It worked for a couple of years, but there came a point where it was no longer sustainable.
Disagreements on decision-making resulted in the pair having a blowout.
Luckily, it didn’t last long and after a quick reconciliation, both Andy and Sam agreed that there would need to be one person in charge of making final decisions. For RealPageMaker, Sam took on the role.
The formula of working together but letting one lead on decisions has continued throughout their ventures with Article and GoodMorning.com. While they are recognized as co-founders for both companies, each has a more active role at one over the other. Andy is the COO of Article and sits on the board for GoodMorning.com, while Sam is the CEO of GoodMorning.com and sits on the board for Article.
“I think it boils down to this alignment between accountability and authority,” says Sam. “You can’t have someone be accountable for a decision when they don’t have the authority over the machinery, the people, the processes, and the information required to make that decision. I think, instinctually, we’ve been applying it over the last decade or more and we’ve defined that the match between accountability and authority is essential.”
While Andy jokes that the independence between the companies means they collaborate more when it comes to talking about their children than they do with business, he does say that the two lean on each other for advice.
Having insight into two businesses means sharing notes on operational approaches and seeing what works and what doesn’t. With both companies in the quick-paced and ever-changing world of e-commerce, the pair sometimes find themselves closely collaborating but can also have periods without crossing business paths.
As early adopters of the DTC business model—Goodmorning.com (formerly known as Novosbed) launched in 2009 and Article in 2013—they have learned many lessons and had many successes together. For Andy, the greatest memories came from the opportunities to improve.
“The wonderful thing about being in business and having demanding customers and opportunities is that you can always be better,” he says. “There’s always something you can do better and something you can deliver better. If that is something that drives you, and in our case it is, that pursuit of better is the ultimate motivator.”
In the pursuit of always being better, both brothers have always focused on being customer-centric. It’s what Andy says all founders, brothers or not, should have as their priority.
After all, GoodMorning.com was built to make mattress shopping an easier, more convenient experience back when buying a mattress online was unheard of. For over a decade the company has been a leader of innovation, offering a 120-night sleep trial with highly tailored mattresses for every type of sleeper.
As for Article, its DTC line of modern, high-quality furniture was a break from the mold of traditional showroom style stores. By delivering directly to customers, Article saves customers money and ensures the team is in close contact with brand fans.
And while most founders might think the key to growing a business is delegating tasks, Sam argues that it’s by staying close to the ground and keeping up with the little things that help make a company great.
“All the opportunities are buried in the details,” says Sam. “If you delegate those out, you, as the entrepreneur, will not be exposed to those opportunities. You’ll never spot them. So get ready to dive deep.”
Through the intertwined life of being twins and co-founders, Andy and Sam have seen each other through the highs and the lows. And their business ventures have allowed them to pick up on admirable traits that extend past your average brotherly bond.
For Andy, that’s Sam’s dedication to getting better in all aspects of life. While Sam believes Andy’s patience is unrivaled and highly valued.
In addition to their shared pursuit of success, both brothers agree that working with others has been a key to creating and enjoying life and business’s greatest wins. Namely, the other two co-founders of Article, Aamir Baig and Fraser Hall.
“Not to downplay our relationship [between Andy and Sam], but when the four of us are together, I feel like we’ve actually gained siblings,” says Sam. “Those guys are just about as close as family now.”
As for the future of mixing business and brotherhood, Andy and Sam Prochazka look forward to continuing to offer great products and experiences for their respective customers. They recommend mixing family with business, so long as you can agree to establish a working relationship where one person is in charge of making the ultimate decision.
Andy likens the experience of working with a sibling to sharing a bowl of popcorn over some laughs, “I think it’s always better to watch comedy movies with someone else because when you laugh—not to say that the business of delivering customer value is a laughing matter—it’s always better to share it with someone else. Although I’ve only ever shared stuff with someone else,” laughs Andy. “So, maybe it’s not always better, but it’s certainly nice.”