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Confidants Turned Colleagues: How to Start a Business with Your Best Friend

Business.com / Entrepreneurship / Last Modified: February 26, 2018
Photo credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

This CEO and his best friend have run a successful, high-volume franchise sandwich business by following these four simple rules.

Your best friend is someone you admire – someone you mesh well with, someone who is always there for you. Having a strong, positive influence in your life might spark the desire to collaborate on a business venture together.

But what if things go south and you lose your BFF? It's easy to get discouraged by all of the "what-if" situations that surface, but embarking on a new venture with a close friend is one of the best ways to launch a successful business. Some of the most successful businesses today were started by best friends: Apple's Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Microsoft's Bill Gates and Paul Allen; the list goes on.

A relationship built on mutual trust and respect offers unique strengths and a competitive edge. If this sounds like something that you could see in your future, it is important to maintain a carefully balanced dynamic and adhere to a few simple guidelines:

  • Establish a hierarchy
  • Bring unique sets of skills to the table
  • Agree on your company's mission and values
  • Make time for one another outside of the office

Establish a hierarchy.

It is essential to comprehend that in a partnership, disagreement is inevitable. It happens even in the most innovative of offices, whether the partners are personal friends or not. There will be times where you must be able to agree to disagree, respect the opinion of the other person, and still make a decision to move forward. In order to do this, there needs to be one voice giving the final say. If no division of responsibility is determined, you may find that when things take a turn for the worse and both of you are at a stalemate, you may lose your partnership as well as your friendship.

When determining which partner will have the final say, analyze and understand the strengths and weaknesses of both individuals. Once determined, it is critical that both parties are in agreement, and they will feel comfortable allowing the person to use their designated power if needed. At the end of the day, acceptance of these roles will create a healthy friendship and a productive partnership.

Bring unique skill sets.

Make sure you both bring a unique set of skills and acumen to the partnership. The partnership should be synergistic rather than both friends bringing the same talents to the table. Typically, different but complementary skill sets will be the partnerships that see the greatest success. For example, one partner who is more of a visionary can set goals and rally the team around a higher purpose. The other partner can be more of a boots-on-the-ground, get-your-hands-dirty type who can manage the details of getting things done.

Having a variety of skill sets avoids duplicating efforts, plus it allows for a synergistic relationship. When people with different skill sets work together, they have the ability to produce a result that is far greater than anything that could be done singlehandedly.

Agree on company mission and values.

When starting your business, sit down together to create your company vision, mission, and values and make these company values an extension of both of your personal values. When my best friend, Jason, and I sat down to discuss Capriotti's mission, vision, and values, we both came to the table passionate about similar topics. We ended up channeling our passions into our own company's values:

  • Passion – Be the best
  • Family – Care about people
  • Integrity – Walk the talk
  • Profitability – Everyone wins
  • Genuineness – 100 percent real

As Capriotti's has grown, we have led by these values, and as your company grows, you will be led by your values. If both partners are not aligned, it will be very difficult to make corporate decisions. Partners who are on the same page will likely see heightened strength and a unified workforce within their business.

Spend time together outside of work.

You will most likely see your best friend five or six days per week at work, but this does not equate to quality friendship time. Before you know it, your friendship may become just a working relationship instead of best friends.

It's important to spend quality time outside of the office like you did before going into business together. It's important to continue nurturing your friendship. And when you're hanging out, don't discuss work-related issues. It is far too easy to let business consume your time to the point where you forget to simply enjoy time with a friend.

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