So you and your very best friend have decided the coolest thing in the world would be to go into business together because you love being together and think so much alike. To that I say, run the other way as fast as you can. Unless you are willing to lose that friendship forever, you’d be much better off not going into business together.
Starting and running a business is as stressful (more stressful?) than getting married – and we all know what happens to over 50% of marriages. With a small business failure rate of over 50% by the fifth year of business, who needs the added burden of ruining a great friendship in the process? Yes, it can happen to you.
Not convinced? Here are some things you can do to help your business and your friendship stay alive.
Determine who does what. You don't have to do everything together. It eats money and resources when you're running a small business. Align your responsibilities with your strengths and avoided duplication of effort.
Use expert advisors. Starting and sustaining a business is way too complicated to navigate the legal and financial waters alone. Hire an accountant and an attorney. Their expertise is invaluable. Using these resources from the birth of your business will help you put in place agreements that could smooth the way if your business partnership ends up not being "until death do you part. "
Communicate often. Talk about what you're doing right as well as what you think needs improvement. Discuss your strategy and direction weekly. Get an outside adviso, someone you both trust, to help you see things you can’t because you’re too close to the business.
Talk about personal values and vision. Be truthful to yourself and your partner. Make sure you talk at length about your vision for the business and what you value most in your personal lives. You could discover a lot of differences that will become obstacles to your business success.
Decide who will decide. Discuss your decision-making process or else plan on stumbling over important decisions. You can't have more than one leader in any given situation. Determine who has the authority over what type of decisions. Decide who will be the final decision maker before deciding on issues.
Make sure you're on the same page. Can you survive if the business stumbles? Are you willing to walk away from business that will drag you down? Can you see the possibilities of business expansion? Be honest with yourself and your partner. Realize things change. Heed warning signs early.
Discuss what work means. It takes many different skills to be successful. Make sure each of you understands that running the business is as critical as providing your product or service. The last thing you want to hear is “I’m doing all the work!” from your partner when you’ve been working your fingers to the bone trying to make your business successful.
Making sure you and your friend approach your business arrangement with purpose and planning will help keep you on the survival side of the small business statistics. What other suggestions do you have?