Business and Friendship – not always a good partnership!Jason Firmager
So going into business with your friends! In my opinion it is no breeze, and no laughing matter! In fact it can be quite the opposite – BUT ultimately it is your call… Obviously I am writing this to urge you to take heed! Believe me, take it from somebody who knows and who subsequently refuses point blank to persue any business ventures with friends. This is not to say that colleagues and clients do not become friends but to start on this foot often leads to toppling flat on your face – not just your business but your relationship too. I am not often one for doom and gloom, and believe in positive thinking and glasses being half full – but I value my personal relationship heaps more than any business, and know the result of hindsight and therefore the importance of foresight.
As I said, I do speak from experience, after conceiving an idea and lacking the self-believe to go it alone, I invited my best friend of the time, to be my partner… After having different ideas of what the business was and what role we both played, along with naivity, stubborness and immaturity… It was only a matter of time before we had no other choice than to go our separate ways: The business folded, she lost money and I am sure more, and I lost three times as much and more… I was more than once bitten twice shy, and needless to say a perfectly brilliant biz idea was put to an end in its infancy, as well as a beautiful relationship destroyed after years of building and sharing. SO please take heed with this brief story of woe, because if you ask most people who have embraked on a biz journey with a buddy or bro, well, you will discover that in more cases than not it does not always work out to be the best option… So instead of having to deal with hindsight, here are some things to think about, to encourage your foresight – After all, (I reiterate) it is ultimately your call:
- Think about intellectual property! If the idea is yours than keep it, and if it comes to a breakup, you will have some rights.
- Percentage share! It needs to be heavy-weighted towards someone. I went fifty-fifty even though it was my idea and I had invested more money… But I trusted the relationship, I was young and inexerienced. If you are telling your self, “but it is different with us – me and (person in question) are so tight; we trust each other; we think the same… etc!” Then this may actually be another reason not to go ahead with the business and friendship mix, as you wouldn’t want to compromise any of things.
- Two different heads! If you do think the same as your partner-to-be, then is this the way you want your biz to run? It is good to have the same morals, business ethos etc, but you need to fulfil different roles, otherwise what is the point in the partnership if you do the same thing? And it is likely that you do this same thing differently, once again highlighting areas for dispute.
- Are you both invested time-wise as well as financially committed? This means more than just saying you both are at the start of the business. My business partner booked a vacation over an extremely important set of deadlines and this just added more fuel to the fire in the end.
- You have to be able to be thick-skinned! if you are out on a drink night or friend date then enjoy your friend relationship and remain detached from your business relationship with each other, but if you are at a meeting than be professional – keep to your roles, and don’t get upset if your partner talks abrupt to you in an environment that may call for it… I know biz partners who are equal in biz and as friends but their roles within the biz involve one dictating to the other. For example actor/producer and director. And these roles have to be respected.
- Communication! This can sometimes be too familar when your friend is your biz partner, it can also be awkward: I recall a time a reputable client had complained about the lack of professionalism from my biz partner, it was awkward to deal with in every way, as I wanted to protect my friend and at the same time was annoyed by her seemingly disregard to the biz reputation.
- Respect! Even after a split, do not bad mouth your partner behind other people’s back. I heard lots of whispers and second-hand messages from people who had heard things from my friend-partner. The fact is it made a bad situation worse and with friendship emotions in the mix, it was a case of no return… So try and brush aside gossip. And remember what others say is just hearsay and often a fabrication of a onesided truth anyway. If you have a mutual friendship group, then be aware that this could not always remain even if you do stay biz partners.
- Make everything official! Trust is important, but this is business remember, so get everything looked over by a legal professional.
New business is tough at the best of times, and whilst it can be great having a pillar of support with friends by your side, there are more things to consider when embarking on business with friends. Remember other options are available too: such as silent partners, or investment angels, or business mentors, or you could go it alone and employ or contract friends if their expertise are required. Good luck – And value your business and your relationships!