We asked members of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) to share their experiences and insights on making business with family and friends work for everyone.
1. Try the Opposite
"Before we got married, my husband and I wanted a project to work on together. As two computer geeks, we opted for the software development. We have never known life together without the firm. Despite having different perspectives, it has worked really well; as they say, opposites attract. I've learned going into business with someone who owns an opposite skillset and mindset can be very beneficial. For me, having a business partner, and husband, who sees things from an opposing vantage point makes all the difference."
Annmarie Lanesey, EO Albany
President, Greane Tree Technology
2. Allow Unfiltered Perspective
"My wife is starting to help out with HR, business development, and business analysis. She's been a fresh set of eyes on my business and she doesn't hesitate to give me unsolicited advice for the betterment of the company. She's given me her opinions before, but now that she's a part of the team and can see my operation in greater detail, it's much more insightful. Not talking about work at home can be a challenge, but we call each other out whenever it crops up. So far, it's been a fun and exciting experience!"
Pete Horvath, EO Chicago
3. Align Your Visions
"I started my business with my best friend from high school, and we have had plenty of fights and disagreements. But the glue that has held our partnership together has been our shared vision and values. We communicate frequently to ensure that these are in alignment by each writing our respective vision for the business and then collaborating to create one collective company vision that we can work towards together. The relationship can sometimes cloud the partnership, so it's important to always communicate openly and address conflict proactively."
Nick Friedman, EO Central Florida
President, College Hunks Hauling Junk
4. Communicate Clearly
"In a family setting, we sometimes assume that the other person knows what we're thinking, doing, or planning, and what we expect from them. That kind of assumption certainly doesn't work in a business environment. We make it a point to communicate clearly and to agree on each person's duties and responsibilities. We also stress that small irritations, whether from home or work, must be addressed and solved before they result in resentment. Working together can cause a strain on friendships, marriages, or other family relationships, but this awareness helps us approach working together."
Andrew Arroyo, EO San Diego
5. Friendship First
"I have done several business ventures with friends. While one blew up on me, I have a new venture with another friend. We did a one-time deal to see how we would work together and it went well. We took over six months to draw up very specific job descriptions and a 'divorce' clause in the partnership agreement. There's been stress, but I remind myself, 'Our friendship is more important than the deal, so give up pride or the deal before the friendship.' So far, so good!"
James Webb, EO Colorado
CEO, 836 Investments
6. Culture Matters
"When I started my business, I had a lot of friends and family working with me. I also didn't have a clear vision of what our culture was and where it needed to be. Instead of creating and sharing one vision to ensure everyone embraced it, we all started having our own visions for the company and how it should grow. In my experience, it's all about culture and fit. If they don't have your values or embrace your mission and vision, they shouldn't be on your team, even if they are friends or family."
Cesar Quintero, EO South Florida
Owner/Manager, Fit2Go, LLC
To learn more about EO members' entrepreneurial experiences and insights, visit Overdrive, EO's global business blog.