Working with friends
September 18th, 2013
A lot of people express interest when I share that my business partners and I had been friends for several years before we took the plunge into mutual entrepreneurship. We’re in the minority of those who have managed to make a working relationship among friends work, so I’ll try to share our secrets to help you decide if working with friends is a reasonable option.
1. Make sure it makes sense.
Not everyone makes a good businessperson, so don’t jump into working with friends without giving it serious thought. Are you all able to pull your own weight? Make sure you trust each other completely, because you’re committing to one another in what will ideally be a big way. It should not be taken lightly, and should be preceded with plenty of serious, honest discussion. If there are concerns, address them candidly and immediately. If those concerns are large enough, consider alternative business ventures.
2. Be honest. Seriously.
Be open and honest with feedback, critique, and discussion, and do it often. It takes a very special kind of person to be willing and open to participate in honest dialogue, but it’s absolutely necessary in any working relationship, especially among friends. If there is stress, concern, conflict, or room for improvement, don’t hesitate to talk it out.
3. Don’t take it personally.
Critique is never easy to receive, especially when it comes from someone important, so you have to learn how to accept it graciously. If you’re taking on a project together, you have to realize that you’re both going to experience a lot of growth during the process, and both critique and encouragement go hand in hand with improvement.
4. Maintain the friendship outside of work.
When a personal relationship gets outweighed by the business relationship, it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost a friend. Make an effort to spend time outside of a work environment with your friends, and talk about things other than work. Schedule friend dates to give you a chance to decompress and enjoy each others’ company without the stress of the day’s duties nipping at your heels.
5. Get away. (Take vacation, take a breather)
We all need a chance to get away. When you spend too much time with anyone, you’re likely to start feeling stifled, smothered, annoyed, or frustrated. It’s important to get away and take time to yourself, be it for a long weekend or an extended getaway. Take time often to spend with family or friends, go on vacation, get a change of scenery, explore hobbies independently, and focus on different things. When you get back, you’ll likely notice that a lot of the stress and pressure you may have been feeling within your business relationships has been relieved.
As with any relationship, working relationships with friends are bound to have their ups and downs, and people are likely to grow and change over the years. Maintaining open and honest communication will help keep everyone on the same page when these things happen, and hopefully can save you from the pain of losing both a dear friend and a valued colleague.