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How to successfully start a business with a friend

Should you really bring your friend into your grand business vision?

From studying thousands of founders for his book, “The Founder’s Dilemma”, Noam Wasserman of Harvard Business School, found that well over 50% of startups fail as a result of co-founder conflict.

You may decide to start a business with a friend, someone who I had known for nearly several decades, so you think you know well.

However, going out for coffee with a friend is much different than being in business together, just like Mays Al-Ali, nutritionist at HealthyMays.com, shares with us: Things did not go well as we were gearing up for our first event and disagreeing every step of the way, so much so that I was really uncertain if we could even continue with the actual event. I found the whole experience really distressing and I felt trapped working with someone who was being incredibly unreasonable and uncollaborative.”

What is the first tip we can get from this? Always trust your gut instinct!

My instinct from the start was one of uncertainty and I had reservations about certain characteristics of my future business partner, however, I chose to ignore it all as I was so excited about finding someone to start my new venture with. So a top Healthy Mays tip, do not ignore that gut feeling as its always right! Our intuition always knows what is best and it’s up to us to tune in and listen to our guiding powers.”

Should this fully dissuade you from starting a company with a friend, partner or even husband or wife? Not necessarily.

Just in case you are feeling incredibly demotivated or worried, let me share with you a quote from Alicia, co-founder of Work for your Beer, when talking about setting up a business with a friend:

“People say that you shouldn’t go into business with a friend, and frankly, I think that’s bullshit. It’s certainly a complicated thing to navigate, but I really think that being friends with your business partner helps you to understand their point of view and respect their wishes in a way that can be difficult with folks that are strictly your business associates. We know so much about one another, and we are able to communicate so much more clearly, as both friends and business partners. I know that Mel supports me wholly in every part of my life vs. just in my business endeavours, and she knows I feel the same way. We are each other’s champions, and I can’t imagine it any other way.”

Separation of Roles:

It is tremendously crucial to define what it is you bring to the table from the get-go.

Everyone should explicitly know their role in the company. If there is an overlap in the skill sets between founders, you can find a way to separate by defining each others’ strengths.

Be honest about your strengths and where you can contribute the most.

Everyone has their role, and their team of specialists, to accomplish particular tasks. When panic strikes, and you’re doing all by yourself, all the questions come to you. With co-founders, depending on the scope of the problem, it goes to the best person, and team, to handle it.

Vanessa and Kate from the blog Brunch and Grind add: “Working as a duo, it’s important to make sure you’re both aligned to the same vision and keep checking in about that as your blog evolves and changes. It’s also really important to make sure you agree upfront how much work you’re both going to put in so that everything is 50-50. It could be really difficult if one of us felt the other wasn’t pulling their weight.”

Working styles

“Communication has been one of the main challenges in the past; making sure my husband and I have communicated project details with each other before issuing tasks to our team.” shared Jen Wittman when talking about working with her husband “Before we streamlined our system, we were sometimes both giving different instructions to our team which wasn’t efficient and was very frustrating to our team members.”

Using a shared system to organise projects with your co-founders can increase productivity and efficiency, cut down on miscommunications, and decreased confusion and frustration.

Work on a small project together to figure out your working style and see how you both work under pressure. If a project falls apart and you’re not doing business together, it’s better to walk away, rather than you working on it for 6 months and realising your visions are diverging.

Be Equal Motivators

In order to move forward, you need to take accountability for what you do, mistakes and all, and make sure you are operating on the same frequency as your counterpart.

“I co-founded the wellness brand The Reset with my friend Lauren. Through working with her I learned how important it is to have an accountability buddy to help get things done – if we hadn’t had each other to report back to and get things done by a deadline, we would never individually have achieved our goal of running retreats.” shared Vicky Shilling, co-founder of The Reset Me “Our meetings each week became a real focus and reason to keep taking action and moving things forward. “

Especially when it comes to communication and emotion, remember:

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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. -Maya Angelou

 

Share your values

Define your unique value proposition together and make sure you both passionately believe in an identical vision.

All of you need to believe in the same mission for the greater goal that you have for the company or product. The goal needs to be made as clear possible in the very beginning to prevent any conflicts.

To finish off, I thought I’d share this quote from the girls at Brunch and Grind:

The best thing about blogging with your bestie is getting to share amazing experiences together!

“We attend press events and studio launches together, we brunch together, shop together and sweat together. It’s much more fun when you’ve got a partner who shares the same passions and has an equally high obsession with nut butter and Instagram! We also get to bounce ideas off each other and help each other out when things become busy and stressful. Balancing a demanding full-time job in media with workouts, press events, content creation and social media is not easy!”

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