Working with friends can be a highly enjoyable experience but it doesn’t come without its challenges. So how can you get it right?
We have all heard the phrase: don’t mix business with pleasure and there’s perhaps no better illustration of combining work and life by starting a company with your best friend. My experience has been immensely rewarding and as I measure success both in business and friendship terms – both are currently thriving. For any entrepreneur considering partnering with a friend: two heads are always better than one.
(1) Clarity is key
There are myriad reasons for splinters in business relationships, regardless of any previous connection, many of which can be avoided through regular communication and transparency. If you start a business with a friend, make sure you’re clear with your expectations as the line between work and personal life can become very blurry. As you embark on your journey, go in knowing that your aspirations may be different from the beginning or indeed may drift apart – and this is natural. Expecting a smooth journey from the onset is utopian and unrealistic.
(2) It’s like a marriage
Starting a business can be daunting and a co-founder alleviates many of the pressures experienced by solopreneurs. Finding a business partner that complements you is vital and in many ways it’s like a marriage. Romantic partnership traits like honesty, trust, respect and the ability to compromise are of immeasurable value in a business partnership. My co-founder George and I balance each other and though we are different in many ways, we align on the fundamentals of business – and this has been pivotal to our business.
(3) The importance of trust
Valuing each other’s opinions and exploring each other’s perspective to determine the best outcome will only strengthen business ideas and growth. Trusting each other’s unique skill set is crucial. I can guarantee that you’ll not always agree but with time, if the relationship is healthy, you will learn to compromise and be objective when it comes to what is best for the company. Working on how to overcome a disagreement is one of the best assets in starting a business together. And, having the ability to move on quickly from any divergent views has saved us from wasting a lot of time.
(4) Celebrate the successes
Appreciating successes together is extremely important. In a business environment, it’s all too easy to fixate on improvements and future-gazing development areas. It means that successes, however big or small, often fall by the wayside. For instance, at AI Business, every year the company arranges an annual team holiday to make sure we set aside time to reflect and enjoy what we’ve achieved. After a summit in New York last december, my team of 30 went to The Bahamas to enjoy hugely-deserved celebrations.
Overall, the perks of going into business are huge, the most important being that you are never alone. You have someone there going through the highs and the lows that you can pull aside and talk to when things are difficult, have frustrations or worries. They will be able to empathise because they will be going through the same thing. Additionally, big decisions can be looked at from different perspectives. Whether you are the realist, optimist, dreamer or pessimist – looking at it from various angles will help you come to the best solution to move the business forward.