A pleasure doing business with you? The lowdown on going into business with a friend
Remember that time when you picked up the bill for dinner and your friend was going to Ping you her share later? She forgot to, didn’t she? It’s not so bad, I guess; you are friends, after all… But imagine that share of dinner was your entire month’s wages. What if that was your rent cheque? Money is a strange thing; although many will proclaim that they wouldn’t let it get in the way of a friendship, the sad reality is that it often does.
That’s why going into business with a friend is such a grey area. You may share a great dream or idea; you may think that you know each other well enough to make things work, but when the going gets tough, will you manage to keep business and pleasure separate? Okay, maybe you will be the exception; perhaps you both have the strength of mind to keep work and play poles apart, but be careful!
I’ll bet that when you’re together, you spend most of your time bitching about your boss or moaning about that colleague who always steals your stapler. It’s not nice, but everyone does it; won’t it be a little difficult to gossip when you are each other’s bosses and colleagues? No matter how hard you try, it’ll probably be tricky to keep the subject away from balancing the books, next time you go for cocktails. Lots of people are friends with colleagues; lots of people go for drinks with their boss -but those friendships have grown organically, and they have their non-work friends to turn to when they need to let off some steam.
As you can probably tell, I’m very wary of the idea of becoming business partners with a friend. Don’t get me wrong, though, there are exceptions. Take Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfields (my personal favourites), for example: They were childhood friends, born four days apart. They spent their teenage years being inseparable, even double-dating. Their strong friendship and passion for food meant that they would go on to become one of the biggest ice-cream producers in the world. Now; 38 years later, they’re still best friends and continue to fill my tummy with the best-tasting Phish Food around. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were childhood friends, too and went on to create a little company you may have heard of called Apple Inc. See; it’s not all bad!
If you do decide to go into business with a friend, be sure to stick to the following;
– Make sure your visions for the business or product are the same from the outset. You don’t want to plough money into someone else’s idea of perfection!
– Draw up a contract which stipulates who owns which aspects of the idea and whose money is whose, just in case things turn ugly.
– Agree to keep business talk confined to office hours – you both need time off to enjoy each other’s company without work commitments hanging over you.
– Agree to disagree; ensure you both know when to leave the other to get on with it. If your venture really is good, it would be a shame for it to be abandoned over a petty argument.
– Really love each other’s company and keep the passion for your product alive – it will pay off!