Starting a business with your friends sometimes sounds better than the alternative - starting alone. Rich Myers answers the age old question – should you go into business with your best friends?
You’re probably bored of me harping on about it by now, but as you know, I started my first business at the age of 19, with two of my best friends. Now generally speaking, my experience here of working with friends was fine. We had some arguments and some disagreements, but on the whole we got on and we’d always resolve any issues.
A different experience of working with friends
A few years later I actually set up another business, a web development company, with a different group of friends. And honestly, it was really difficult. To work with friends, you need a strong understanding of each other, and of what each other’s expectations and goals are. You have to have a real trust in each other. It was probably why my first business worked well – all me and my mates really wanted out of our club night was to promote our own band, meet girls (hey, we were 19), drink lots and come away with some cash at the end of the night.
In my experience, extending your friendship into a business partnership rarely works in the long term. And I don’t think I’d want to risk a friendship again by going into business. To me, friendships are more important than business partnerships anyway.
What should you look for in a business partner?
Recently, an old pal of mine, who lives up in Scotland, contacted me because she was thinking about setting up a business with her friend. So I spent an hour or two with them both on Zoom, sharing some advice. And I had to start the conversation by saying “I know you don’t want to hear this, but my advice is to think long and hard before going into business together”...
If you’re looking for a business partner, you should be looking for someone who compliments your own strengths and weaknesses. And you need to be able to be brutally honest with each other at times. The brilliant thing is, if you get it right, then your business partners can become friends. My partners here at Transmit, Damian and Ian, I count them as friends now. But that’s because we’ve become friends through the business.
Settling the debate...
So what would I say if you’re determined to start a business with your best friend? Well, I’d advise you to sit down and have a few in depth conversations before you actually get into the logistics of setting anything up. Be open and honest with each other about what you want from the business. And have a plan for what happens if, after you start out, something doesn’t feel right. And finally, make sure you still make time for each other, as friends. It’s important to make sure you maintain your relationship, business or no business.
If you're thinking of starting a business and don't want to go it alone, you can find support and camaraderie in the Smarta community. If you haven't already, you can sign up free and become part of a community of entrepreneurs who can support - and sometimes challenge - each other.