Never mix business with pleasure. It’s a tale as old as time: two best friends come up with a fantastic, ground-breaking idea over Friday night drinks and decide to go into business together. But lo and behold, the relationship winds up in the toilet faster than the next morning’s hangover, and the partners are left dealing with not only a stinking business but a festering friendship too.
Clearly, undertaking a new business venture can be extremely stressful even in the best of times. Difficult, impersonal decisions must constantly be made for the sake of the company, leaving those who are ill-prepared wondering what happened to the rose-tinted dreams they had. But if you both enter the venture with a good understanding of the risks (and rewards), it might just be the best decision you ever make.
With this in mind, Pauline Morrissey has written a great article
containing the five questions to ask yourself before you put down the beer and open the checkbook:
1. Do you both share a common goal?
Talk it out with your friend from the get go to ensure you both have the same goals and ultimate vision for the business. Your goals and vision will inevitably change over time but so long as you keep the lines of communication open, you’ll be able to stay in sync and motivated to achieve the same result.
2. What skills does each person bring to the business?
Running a business requires an array of skills, skills that are unlikely to be held by a single individual. An advantage of having a friend step into the role of business partner means they can (hopefully) compensate forn the skills that you're lacking with skills of their own. The act of allocating business roles should be done on these grounds: nut out all the things your business requires and then split ownership based on what each person is good at and excited about.
3. How much time will each of you devote to the business?
Once you have sorted out the roles each of you will be playing in the business, you need to consider how much time will be required by each of you from day to day, week to week. Initially, both parties should keep notes on how long designated tasks are taking, then swap notes regarding the results. If one person’s hours far outweigh the others, then it may be necessary to reassess and readjust responsibilities to ensure no one person feels as if they are carrying the team.
4. How will you deal with disagreements?
While sharing a friendship and sharing a business are inherently different, it is inevitable that in both relationships conflict will arise. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing! The secret is facing the conflict head on, however uncomfortable it may be. This way you can fix the problem before it becomes a festering sore.
5. Can your friendship handle it?
Having considered all of the above, it is important to ask yourself honestly whether your friendship can take the heat. Starting a business requires a real partnership and honesty is a huge factor. So if you can’t envision being brutally honest with your friend and partner, then you might have to think twice about starting a business together.