Friend and partners

My wife recently showed me an article by Justine Lopez in “Romantic Homes” magazine (May 2011 issue) about three friends who went into business together. They shared some tips on how to run a business with friends and still remain friends:

  1. Going into business with friends is a great option if you want to start a business but can’t do it yourself.
  2. Begin by writing out a business plan, including each partner’s business expectations and goals.
  3. Schedule frequent in-person planning meetings so everyone is on the same page. Good communication is key.
  4. Divide business responsibilities based on each partner’s individual talents: creative, finances, marketing, management. Follow through with job roles.
  5. Be respectful of each other’s ideas, and leave egos at the door.

From my own experience this is fairly sound advice. There are a few caveats I would add, however. First of all, while the more business partners you have the lower the risk to any one individual, it also means lower return on your investment. It means a smaller piece of the pie for everyone. This is not necessarily a problem, but certainly something to consider up front. It may very well be that you can’t realistically run your business without all those partners.

I couldn’t agree more about having a business plan, expectations, and goals, especially among multiple partners. If you don’t all start on the same page you have very little hope of staying on the same page. Make sure your goals all align with the business goals you choose.

Regular meetings are also a good idea. I would add that you should not hold the meetings during business hours. Find a time when you can stop working and focus on planning. Reach formal decisions, and record them.

Dividing up the work is also a good idea. Where you have overlaps be sure to assign primary and secondary responsibility. It’s good to have double-coverage on key responsibilities, but not if you keep stepping on each other’s toes. Establish clear boundaries.

The last, being respectful and checking egos at the door, is much easier said than done. It helps if you are all familiar and comfortable with each other, but there can be problems when partners who are less acquainted don’t know how to read each other yet. What could be merely silence or distraction by one partner could be read as disagreement or being upset by another, for example.

It’s the interpersonal relations that can cause the most difficulties among partners. Everyone needs to be committed to Tip #5 to make it work. There will be ruffled feathers. Everyone needs to work together to keep it to a minimum, and help smooth things over when it happens. Taking sides can make things worse, so tread carefully.

I agree that having partners can be big help in starting a business. It’s a much less lonely endeavor when there are several of you working together, and several heads are better than one in most cases. Multiple partners also makes the load lighter for any one person, and allows partners to cover for each other when life gets in the way from time to time. It’s good to have someone watching your back.

With a little maturity and planning it’s entirely possible to be friends, start a business, and remain friends.

Any other advice or tips that should be on that list? Thoughts? Leave a comment!