It's the age of the startup, and it feels like everyone has their own business. Whether you have an idea for an app, a cafe, or a publication, working for yourself can be a very tempting prospect. But running a business isn't a one person job, and you'll undoubtedly need help bringing your aspirations to fruition. Most likely, you'll turn to an equally ambitious friend to help you get your business off the ground, but is working closely with a friend a good idea?
Here are 5 tips you need to know before going into business with a friend.
1. Keep it Equal
The tips on this list are in reference to a business relationship in which each party has an equal share of authority. Hiring a friend to be your subordinate in a business venture is never a good idea, as the unequal power dynamic will undoubtedly cause problems in the friendship. Additionally, it can be hard to respect someone as your boss if you're used to grabbing drinks with them on the weekend and know all about their personal life. When going into business with a friend, the only real option is for both parties to have an equal investment in the venture. This also means trying to keep salaries and work loads as equal as possible.
2. Set Clear Guidelines For Your Professional Relationship
One of the dangers of working with someone you're close to can be withholding honest feedback for fear of damaging your friendship. It can be harder to be blunt with a friend than it is with a colleague, but open communication is necessary for any business to work. Before you go into business together, sit down and discuss how you will both work to create a productive professional relationship, without sacrificing your friendship. This may mean agreeing that the success of the business depends on neither friend taking professional feedback too personally or even very explicitly laying out each person's role so that there's less potential for conflict later on.
3. Agree to Keep Work Within Work Hours
One of the fastest ways to ruin a friendship is by making it all about the business you have together. A simple way to avoid this is to agree to only discuss work during work hours, allowing your friendship to continue to exist as something separate from the business. Of course, with the long hours that often come with starting your own business, sometimes this is easier said than done. If you and your friend need to be able to talk about work at all hours of the day for most of the week, that's fine, but make sure that you leave at least an evening a week where you can just be friends.
4. Avoid Being Competitive
It's natural for friends to share a sense of healthy competition, but this can backfire when you're both working towards the same goal. Try to create a business relationship in which success and failure is shared equally, regardless of who had a larger hand in the creation of each outcome. If you're constantly trying to prove to each other that you're the more valuable half of the partnership, it's going to be pretty hard to get anything done.
5. Know Each Other's Strengths and Weaknesses Before Going into Business
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If you're constantly frustrated with your friend for being bad with clients, and they hate the way you handle numbers, you may find yourself with an unproductive partnership and a damaged friendship. Before you go into business with a friend, it's important to have a real understanding of the way your respective traits will complement each other and what weaknesses you need to keep in mind. If you start the business relationship with a clear understanding of the other person's strengths and weaknesses, you're less likely to grow resentful towards them later on and can create a distribution of responsibilities that best suits each person's skills.