Starting a business can be an intimidating task. It seems like a good idea to bring someone along so that the task doesn’t seem so daunting. Starting a business with your friend can really go one of two ways – it can strengthen your friendship or ruin it, whether your business is successful or not.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that businesses started by friends can be hugely successful but that it can also be catastrophic for the relationship. It all depends on how you do it. Managing both a friendship and a business starts with knowing the risks and benefits and making sure you are prepared for each. So, here are the pros and cons of starting a business with your friend.
You know each other well, but may have different goals
Strong friendships get to where they are by each partner knowing a lot about the other. You’ve probably shared some personal details with your friend and been vulnerable around them and that can be good for business. It means you know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
But friends often assume that because they know so much about each other, that they are like-minded in everything. They assume that they have the same ideas, visions, and goals for the business. When these visions are not aligned, trouble starts brewing. This can easily be avoided if you sit down together and have a detailed discussion about the goals for the business and very importantly – put it all in writing!
You can communicate well with each other, but may be soft on each other
You might find it easy to talk to your friend about things. It makes sense, you’ve shared this journey together and have a number of things in common. You have a relatively good understanding of how the other person understands the world and how they view different things. This is great for business as you are able to get your ideas across clearly and in a way that the other person truly understands.
But this ability comes with a cost. Since you know what makes your friend smile and what makes them cry, you may be scared to hurt their feelings, even if it is for the good of the business. How do you tell your friend that they’re not pulling their weight or that their idea is not working? You will have to discuss that, before going into business, there may be times when you hurt each other’s feelings. Take criticism professionally and move on – for the good of the business.
You are comfortable with each other, but boundaries are at risk
You’re probably more comfortable saying certain things to your friend that you would not be comfortable saying to a stranger. Maybe you tease each other about personal things. That’s okay in friendship because it builds a stronger relationship.
The problem is, when having a business disagreement, this tendency to get personal crosses a few lines. A business disagreement can turn into a personal attack, especially when it gets passionate. It is very important to establish professional boundaries before going into business and to discuss those boundaries often. Sometimes they may be crossed, but identify that quickly, stop the discussion, and work it out. When cool heads prevail, then you can continue the discussion.