They say you should never mix business with pleasure but what happens when you decide to go into business with a friend? Starting your own venture can be daunting, so it helps to do it with someone you trust, admire and enjoy being around.That said, it’s important to put certain measures in place to protect your friendship – as well as your own interests.
The first step has to be making sure that the structure of the company is secure. Get a solicitor involved to ensure your contracts are watertight and that everyone is clear on the details of the business. This could avoid serious problems should anything go wrong.
You should agree on the long-term objectives and values of your company. Just because you agree on ice-cream flavours and movies doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the same vision. For example, if one of you wants a lifestyle brand while the other has plans to take the business in a completely different direction, it’s never going to work. To make sure you’re on the same page, agree on a list of core values and try to stick to them.
Clearly defining your roles and responsibilities from the start will also prevent misunderstandings in the long term. It might seem natural to help your friend out if they appear to be struggling but it’s vital that each of you is responsible for different areas of the business so you don’t double up on tasks and get in each other’s way. You need to leave your egos aside and allocate roles objectively based on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Once you’ve done that, make sure you stick to them. Don’t be scared to tell each other to back off if you find your functions overlapping.
It’s equally important to put on your business hat and speak to each other frankly if there’s something bothering you or, on the flip side, be able to take constructive criticism from your friend. The money conversation is also one that many find awkward but being upfront will prevent tension from building up and bubbling over. Make sure you’re clear about how much money each of you is contributing, what you’ll take out and the amount you’ll invest in growth. Often we don’t want to upset friends by being confrontational but there are times when you need to put your friendship to one side and focus on the business.
Starting a venture together is a big decision but as long as you have the right structure, working with someone you have a close relationship with can give both of you the confidence and support to take the big step into entrepreneurship.