Start a Small Business with Your Best Friend Without Destroying The Relationship
Going into business is often a scary and lonely time. So going into business with a best friend can be a very alluring proposition. You have big dreams, great ideas and lots of enthusiasm and someone else actually shares your enthusiasm, gets your ideas and has the same dreams. It’s a comforting and exciting feeling.
It seems like a match made in heaven and it only makes sense to team up, form a partnership and go into business together. Building a business is hard work and a full time effort. Keeping a partnership together is also challenging and a lot of work. Together they can be insurmountable for many.
Small businesses fail for a myriad of different reasons: lack of effective small business marketing, undercapitalization, poor management and the inability to keep accurate and current financial records to name a few. However, statistics also show that partnerships are four times more likely to succeed than sole proprietorships. So going into business with a friend may not be a bad move after all. The key is to go in with the right mindset and understanding of why you’re partnering up with each other.
If you begin with bad reasoning and the wrong partner, things start going downhill fast. You start disagreeing, you start hanging out less and less and soon, you hate each other’s guts. The friendship disappears and the business falls apart. It is a common scenario for many friends who start businesses without knowing what they are in for.
As business partners and best friends we have a lot of experience on this topic. We’ve been best friends for 13 years. We’ve been business partners for 5. Before that, we were college roommates and worked together at a job for 5 years. We’ve been through a lot together and it hasn’t always been fun and games. The relationship takes work but it’s also highly rewarding.
Those who say you can’t mix business and pleasure are wrong. We do it every day. We feel there are three major reasons why our friendship still exists and our business partnership thrives.
Understand and respect strengths and weaknesses.
One of the major reasons partnerships fail is because the partners don’t see eye-to-eye and don’t understand the roles they should be playing in the partnership. In order to avoid this from becoming a partnership time bomb, you need to first understand what your own personal strengths and weaknesses are and what your partner uniquely brings to the table.
You have to know yourself and you must be confident and comfortable with your abilities and weaknesses. Your partner will not know what to rely on you for and when to defer to your gut and judgment if you aren’t even sure where you shine.
You must also know where your partner is strong and where they are weak and they must be aware of this as well. Partnerships work best when each member understands what the other brings to the table and where they need the most help. This complementary and synergistic collaboration keeps the partnership balanced and prevents the partners from running over each other’s decisions.
For example in our partnership, Jim’s strengths are understanding people, being creative, being a visionary and stimulating us to do new things and implement quickly. But he is not good at spotting inaccuracies in numbers, scrutinizing what people say/promise and paying attention to details. Jim respects Travis for his skills and Travis respects Jim for his. Jim values Travis’ keen eye, level headedness and skepticism in every situation and Travis values Jim’s energy, creative outlook and futuristic vision. Together we make good decisions and pick up the slack where each other is weak.
We also both work very hard and have agreed on a goal for where we want to take the business and the kind of lifestyles we want for each of our families. These are all things you need to figure out and take into consideration before you partner up.
If the person you are partnering with doesn’t bring anything you find valuable and lacking in yourself to the table, it probably won’t be a very secure or valuable partnership. If you both have the exact same strengths and can’t admit your weaknesses then you’ll never have any respect for the other person and the partnership will quickly crumble.
Understand you’re in a relationship.
One of the most critical elements of keeping a friendship and a partnership together is to understand that you’re in a relationship. If you’re not good at being married or keeping a long term significant other, you’re probably not going to do well in a partnership/ friendship scenario either.
A business partnership, especially with a best friend, is very similar to a marriage. You have to keep an open line of communication, you have to actively listen to your partner’s ideas, you have to respect their opinions, input and comments and you have to be willing to compromise and make concessions to keep things moving forward.
It’s not easy. It takes work to get better at it and make the partnership evolve and grow stronger. If you are unwilling to put this kind of effort in, you should consider going solo and not take on an equal partner.
Take time outside the office.
Another thing that can hurt a friendship is not taking any time outside the office to still be friends. Even though you may spend all day everyday working closely with the other person you still must take time to be friends outside the office.
Sometimes you might think to yourself, “I don’t want to spend another minute with that person. I just spent all day with them.” This can be challenging. But you were best friends for a reason before the partnership and those reasons didn’t involve the business. In order to keep the friendship and the partnership strong and fresh you must keep the reasons why you became friends alive.
Business is important but friendships are one of life’s greatest gifts. A best friend is rarer than a perfect diamond. It is one of the few things in life that is worth working for and working at. Knowing that another person would drop everything for you, your family, that you could count on to listen or lend a hand no matter what is priceless. Is it worth risking a true friendship in order to go into business together? It doesn’t have to be a risk if you follow the suggestions outlined above. In fact, we believe, if there were more genuine friendships in business the world would be a much more enjoyable, simple and prosperous place.