Doing business with friends can sometimes have negative results despite our best intentions. Even with our best hopes, what starts out as a seemingly safe and mutually-beneficial project or interaction can turn into anything from a minor embarrassment to a major nightmare.
I’ve always been thankful for having good working relations with others. I’m very receptive of working with others, as it’s an opportunity to get two thoughts, opinions and another set of eyes on an idea. This works best with people who have the same desire to succeed as yourself. But what happens when the other party doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain? Well, let’s just say that I become extremely difficult to work with at that point.
While doing business with friends may seem like a superb idea at first because you already know the person, you have someone to split duties with, split expenses with – the whole superb idea can turn into a disaster very quickly. Sadly in most instances partnerships between friends don’t work out in the end – not everybody has the luck of Disney and Google. In order for a friendship-based business to thrive and survive, there has to be an understanding what each party brings to the table, their strengths and weaknesses, and how each partner can help enable one another in a positive manner.
Three months ago I joined forces with a friend to start a business together. At first the business idea was flawless – start an online community targeted at a specific ethnic background through news outlet and turn the online community into a local newsprint that can be distributed locally at select shops and businesses.
The hopes, ideas and thoughts were all there, and getting into business with a friend who’ve I’ve known for over fifteen years seemed too logical. It would cut down my learning curve of working with someone new, trust was already established, there was someone to split the workload with, someone to push me when I needed a push and someone to add some necessary speed to the project.
Unfortunately despite the best intentions from both sides, this partnership has had it’s growing pains due to one’s inability to hold up their end of the workload.
We’ve all got strengths and weaknesses, but if you want to contribute to a project you gotta show face. Standing on the sidelines while waiting for someone else to delegate a task certainly won’t do it. If you’re unsure what to do, just ask!! How can I contribute? What would you like me to do next? Would you like me to do this………….? So, needless to say that it becomes exhausting to do your own work, while your partner sides on the sidelines waiting for direction, and when direction comes, deadlines are missed and you’re greeted with half-ass excuses.
So what does one do? I could walk away and save a somewhat damaged friendship. I could sit tight, and hope that one will pull up their pants and step up or maybe I should turn a blind eye. What would you do?
Common Pitfalls of Doing Business with Friends
Difficult to Reverse – Once you remove the “arms-length” and start doing business with people who are close to you, you often start down a course that’s hard to change or reverse. Whether it’s setting expectations or creating problematic assumptions, changing or getting out of friends/family dealings is much harder than business-as-usual.
Inability to Find the Shutoff Valve – There are people who can completely shut off work and draw a solid line across their lives when they close the office door behind them. Unfortunately I’m not one of those people. I’m always thinking, writing things down and sometimes carry multiple notebooks with me to write ideas down during dinners and other outings. Even though I admire those who have the ability to find the shutoff valve, I know very few of them. The rest of us inevitably bring our working lives home with us in one way or another. When you do business with family and friends, at some point you’ll be with them at a barbecue, birthday, cocktail party, or wedding. If there’s tension brewing between you, aside from your own discomfort, it will affect – and potentially infect those around you.
Finances – Anytime you start a business, one needs to be prepared to invest money they’re prepared to lose. You may know this basic business 101 rule, but does your partner? I’m sure most people do feel that way when they put their money in the hands of a friend. But what happens if the money goes down the drain? You or your partner may say “Hey, don’t worry about it, I took the risk,” but in all likelihood your relationship will forever be tainted.
Firing Friends is Hard – How do you fire someone who you started the business with? It’s hard and at times impossible. Despite your best intentions, often parties associated forget that business has a way of coming between the best of friendships, and can often be difficult to shake negative feelings due to bad business decisions. Your schedule won’t always match the schedule of your partner. He or she may take more time off than yourself. Their contribution may not be inline with yours. Basically many reasons could come up to fire your friend, but doing it is the hard part.
The Relationship is Always Tested – Just like in any business matter, no matter how foolproof you think a plan may be, it’s wise to assume things can and will go wrong. And “friendship wrong” can be much worse than “business wrong.”
Doing business with friends is a personal choice that can only be made by you. It’s important to remember that you should find businesses partners based on merit and not the personal relationship with you – I’m learning this now. The biggest issue with doing business with friends is that you’re risking the friendship it self. If you’re partner is not pulling their weight, you begin to feel that you’re somehow being taken advantage of and eventually feelings of resentment surface. Eventually this leads to you to believe that the person you knew, isn’t really who you thought they were.
As much as I enjoy working with others, collaborating and sharing ideas, I’m also very straight to the point and don’t have an issue voicing my opinion. Unfortunately this makes most people get on the defensive. Having an understanding that the friendship comes first is important, so the relationship doesn’t get thrown away.
Doing business with friends can be a slippery slope and that isn’t for everyone. Even though I’m learning my lesson, I’m beginning to realize that business-is-business at the end of the day, gotta respect yourself and the contributions.
Thanks for reading!