There are many articles on building effective strategic relationships. However, developing partnerships with close friends can be an even more complicated subject.
Some people say they have the secrets to mixing friends and business, while others flat out recommend against it.
When starting a new business it seems logical to partner with a close friend. However, many people underestimate the stress a business will put on friendship. I've seen life-long friendships ruined from business relationships gone bad.
I have worked with a very close friend over the course of a decade. We founded three online businesses together, all of which were sold. Together we developed an amazing working relationship and built some awesome companies.
However, while building any business, challenges are certainly going to arise. Starting a business will put any relationship to the test.
If you're considering partnering with a friend, be sure to consider:
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Here are GOOD characteristics to look for when beginning a partnership with a close friend:
- Integrity - This is the key characteristic you should look for when assessing a friend as a potential partner. I don't care how close you are - if the person lacks integrity, bringing them onboard is simply too risky.
- Strong Work Ethic - Starting a business is one of the most stressful and challenging experiences a person can undertake. Therefore, any friends you consider must have a serious work ethic. One of the biggest riffs I see between business partners is one person feeling like they are handling all the work. It's imperative you set expectations for roles upfront.
- Persistence - With a large percentage of startup ending in failure, you need someone by your side that will remain persistent and dedicated through the challenging times.
Use these characteristics as a screening tool. If your friend doesn't make the cut, don't bring them onboard.
There are also a number of qualities that are red flags. You might even enjoy some of these characteristics when it comes to your friendship. But beware - these same tendencies can be toxic to your business.
Here are some BAD characteristics to keep a lookout for:
- Big Ego - Your friends' big ego might be amusing when you're out at happy hour, but it will lead to serious problems in business. You need someone who is open to learning what he doesn't know, not someone who assumes they already have all the answers.
- Overly Passionate - Passion, without diligence and a carefully researched plan, can lead to disaster. A little passion is good, but only when it is matched with a grounded, realistic view on the situation at hand.
- The Talker- If your friend is all talk and no action, this can be very disruptive and unproductive in a business environment. Ideas are great, but action is even better. The talker might make a great sales person, but they likely won't make a great business partner.
It's also a good idea to look at your friends past. Both in their personal and professional lives, people tend to follow the same patterns. Will your friends' patterns add value or create problems for your business in the long run?
And finally, there's the UGLY side:
- Going Into Business Together Can Destroy A Relationship - It's true. I've seen many friends go into a new venture together with great intentions and a strong friendship. Some have endured the trials with their relationships intact, but others have not.
Starting a business with a friend can be one of the greatest experiences of your life. But it's not a decision to make lightly.
You will often spend more time with your business partner than you will with your family, choose this partner wisely. A good friend does not always equal a good business partner.
When you work with a friend, your relationship will change. It's inevitable. But how it changes - for better or worse - is up to you.