Wednesday Wisdom - Starting a Business with Your Best Friend

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So…you want to start a business.

Launching a business is one of the most thrilling, ambitious and powerful journeys a person chooses to embark upon.  The adventure can be strenuous, risky, and even intimidating.  On the plus side, it can also be electrifying, rewarding, and encouraging! Chasing a tiny dream can lead to a fruitful avenue of business ownership, and even become the start to an empire.  Sadly, however, despite how unique the idea, or amount of hard work applied, or the countless sacrifices made, a vision can fail.  So, how do you put the odds in your favor? 

The ideas of others are often better than your own.

Very few people in this world got far by going at it alone.  That especially applies to acts of starting, owning, and operating a business.  Many successful business entrepreneurs agree starting a business with a partner can significantly decrease the risks of its failure.  A business partnership allows two persons to share in liabilities, sacrifices, financial burdens, emotional stress, accountability, work-time, tasks and responsibilities instead of one person enduring them alone.  The perfect partnership can accelerate your success speed and ensure business longevity.  The catch is not only partnering with the right person, but also taking the appropriate steps to maintain a healthy, prosperous business relationship from the very beginning.

A perfect business partner is one who embodies the same drive, vision, aspiration, integrity, credibility and knowledge as yourself. More often times than not, the same is to be said for a best friend.  Almost everyone has read, heard, or been advised to never form a business partnership with a friend, especially a best friend.  There was once a time when I believed this cliché to be completely bogus, and it was difficult for me to understand its origin in the first place.  Who better to go into business with than with someone whom you’ve already built a trusting, loving, selfless, lasting relationship?  Someone who has always braved the unknown right by your side, who’s always encouraged you through self-doubt, and has boosted you to glory? It’s because of questions like these I thought you’d be crazy not to go into business with your best friend! 

Truth:  There is no rainbow-adorned aisle that directly leads to a unicorn filled land of success.

Priscilla and I formed our partnership without any doubts or uncertainties.  She and I had already developed a successful working relationship between our own separate companies, so an official business partnership seemed like a no brainer.  Even more, I knew that we activated each other’s dreams and fed each other’s creativity.  Failure didn’t seem possible for two people who constantly cheered the other on and encouraged each other’s strengths and talents, without internally striving to be the solo star of the show.  

We both were confident our friendship could and would survive any perils of business.  Our eternal optimism met reality not too shortly after we officially launched our business.  I quickly began to understand how friendships and business clashed.  When times got tough, I began to see both our business and personal relationships tear (only a teeny tiny bit).  It can be difficult to separate your friendship from the business, preventing business stress factors from infiltrating your personal relationship as well.  Without recognizing, addressing, and resolving the issues that were quickly building between us, I can’t say we wouldn’t have too fallen down the tunnel of partnership doom.  

Lessons learned the hard way.

No matter how murky the waters have gotten, our loyalty to one another has never wavered.  It’s because of this dedication that Priscilla and I are currently stronger than ever.  Our friendship and business are thriving, both in and out of one another.  We have come to know our relationships, both business and personal, require every day attention and work.  She and I now have a solid foundation of partnership, to which we continue to build upon, brick by brick, continuously tuning, for a strong, productive business relationship, and an impermeable, everlasting friendship.  How?  We thought you'd never ask. Here are 7 lessons we've learned thus far which will hopefully help you along your journey in starting a business with your perfect pick of a partner: 

7.  Partnership expectations, roles, and business responsibilities must be formally discussed, assigned, and agreed upon.
It’s important to understand what’s expected of you from your business partner, just as it is equally important to dictate your expectations of the other person.  Official roles, duties, and responsibilities should be divvied, and must be done so based on each other’s strengths.  Relinquish control and put forth some trust!

6.  Communication needs to be open, constant, and effective.
It’s all about what you say, how you say it, the timing of the message, and most importantly, what you don’t say at all. 

5.  The efficiency of consistent, structured, focused business meetings.
Even though we see each other all day every day, our time together doesn’t guarantee conversations allocated to the business.  Spotify jam sessions and personal gossip often substitutes business tough talk.  It wasn’t until we developed an agenda with topics to be discussed during mandatory weekly meetings that we began to feel a strong sense of uniformity and order.  An outlined, weekly agenda helps us to stay focused and on track, assuring conversation is strictly devoted business.

4.  Accept differentiating work methods, yet establish uniform systems that work for BOTH partners and the business, and implement those systems daily.
In the beginning, I believed that any and all future success would be because of our many similarities.  I can now recognize that it’s our complimentary differences that fuel our dynamic success.  I can’t fault Priscilla for not being more like myself, just as she cannot fault me for not being more like her.  If we were both bringing the same skills and similar ideas to the table, we wouldn’t be assets to our business.  The little quirks that each of us possess could have easily created volatile situations.  Instead, we’ve learned to recognize and respect our differences, and find love and humor in what makes us different.

3.  Feed your friendship.
It’s important to remember that it isn’t the number of times you see one another, but the value of those encounters.  Even if you’re struggling with a business partnership for a brief moment, it’s important to be a reliable friend to the other.  Stay committed to plans that promote the health of the friendship, despite frustrations or annoyances developed prior to.  She may be the last person you want to be around at the moment, but ironically, down time away from the business can be the key to not getting burnt out.  Never under estimate the resolution powers of champagne and charcuterie. 

2.  Celebrate victories, no matter how small.
It’s okay to stay driven, but never lose motivation.  It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come when you’re pushing to get yourself further.  Ditch the glass half empty mentality.  Fill up those champagne flutes and clink to any and all achievements, no matter the size.  

1.  You can toss your best friend status out the window.
Going into business with your best friend catapults the relationship to an entirely different level.  I get that some “best friend” business partnerships crumble.  I also get that some best friends tap into glorious power when uniting under alternative circumstances.  Our relationship has been taken to a label that is defined by a mix friendship, family, business, and soul mates.  It’s a status deeper, stronger, and more meaningful than that of “best friend.” 

Soap box please!

I hate to break it to you, but there is a chance that despite our wisdoms, we cannot save you from having made the biggest mistake of your career by having chosen your bestie as your business partner. Our hope is that by heeding our adivce, you'll become the exception and not the rule.