It’s one of the oldest sayings, ‘don’t mix business with pleasure’. What must happen then if you find yourself in a situation where it makes sense to go into business with a person or persons who also bring you great pleasure? There is understandable apprehension about taking a risk such as this one and potentially compromising your friendship. Here are some things to consider in order to preserve not just your friendship but also your business should you decide to go into business together.
1. Open, honest communication
Communication is the key to success in every relationship. Don’t assume you’re on the same page on any matter just because you generally agree on things as friends. Talk about every decision that has to be made to avoid confusion or misunderstanding. Make sure you are open and honest when it comes to sharing your thoughts and feelings about issues and decisions to be made. This is especially important about sensitive things like money. If there is a conflict or difference in opinion, talk it out. Don’t allow any issues to simmer unresolved, raise them with maturity and mutual respect.
Raise the potentially touchy subjects early on. The longer you put these off, the more challenging and uncomfortable they become.
2. Establish clear roles from the beginning
It is crucial that you define your job titles and responsibilities clearly from the start. This reduces any friction caused by confusion, overlapping duties, and feelings of power struggles in the business. This not only clarifies responsibilities but also ensures that the labour is divided with each person’s strengths and weaknesses in mind. Each person handles duties that they are best suited for and that they will be accountable for at the end of the day. Once the roles are clearly defined, stay in your respective lanes.
3. Get your business plans in writing
Conversations that you have about the business regardless of how in-depth they may be are not a substitute for written plans. Layout a strategic map for anything between 1-5 years for the business. Be clear about your expectations, goals and intentions in running the business. If later on, you disagree about the direction to take the business in, it helps to have a previously agreed-upon roadmap even which is not to suggest that plans can’t change.
Get a lawyer and draft an operating agreement and a clear exit strategy. A formal exit plan minimizes the chaos that can ensue when things do not work out as planned and one or more of you want to exit. Because such a plan is written in good times, it will likely be fair and in good faith and will protect the friendship.
4. Nurture your friendship
Even as you grow the business, don’t neglect to nurture your friendship too. Set time aside to spend time together socially with no work talk allowed. It may seem like you are spending a lot of time together so that’s promoting the health of your friendship, but that is not the case. Nurturing the friendship has to be deliberate, it cannot just be incidental and a by-product of working together for extended periods.
When things are stressful as they inevitably will be at some point, take time off away from each other. Downtime will save you from burnout, keep you both sane and give you some time to calm down and reflect on the issues at hand.
Introducing new complexity in the form of a business will definitely bring new strain to any relationship. This does not mean that you shouldn’t do it, it just means you should be prepared for it building up the skills necessary to respond effectively. Open and honest communication is key. Equally important is establishing clear roles in the beginning and getting all your plans, goals, intentions, and more in writing. Get your exit plan in writing as early as possible while things are still wonderful so that it’s fair and done in good faith with your mutual love for each other as the basis of it. Even as you get caught up in all the excitement and activity in running a business deliberately set out time to nurture your friendship which is why you have all the goodness the business comes with in the first place.
Here are some tips on running a successful family business. Also, check out 7 Ways To Keep Your Business Separate From Your Personal Life