By Jo Gifford Run your business Mixing business with friendship – how to make it work 15 May 2015 They say business and pleasure don’t mix well. But what if you and your best bud have got a great idea for a business? It’s true that it can be a tricky combination and can test even the most solid of friendships. Sometimes a partnership with your nearest and dearest can make for the most productive and successful meetings of minds. After all, you know each other inside out, and what could be more fulfilling and exciting than going to work every day with your pal, sharing the up and downs and collaborating to make your fortune? The key is to establish the ground rules early on. Don’t enter into things blindsided, blissfully ignorant in the belief that nothing could ever rock the boat between you and your buddy. Follow these tips and safeguard both your interests and your friendship: Be honest with each other Before embarking upon a business partnership, have an honest chat with your friend. As close as you are, this may be the time you get to know each other even better. What are your ambitions, your expectations, your strengths and your weaknesses? Now is the time to air your concerns and to tell them about things which may affect your working partnership. Perhaps your timekeeping leaves a little to be desired or you’re not confident in meetings. Being open about these things upfront will help you both make an informed choice as to whether or not to pursue your joint venture, establish some ground rules and help avoiding nasty surprises further down the line. Get it in writing It’s all well and good saying you trust each other enough to make a gentleman’s handshake and feel this is enough, but this is business – you need to make a formal agreement and get it down on paper. This way, you both have legal peace of mind and something to fall back on, should things go wrong. Think about deciding things such as: Financial responsibility and remuneration How time and tasks should be divided between you What expectations and boundaries you have around working hours How you both plan to deal with time off, holidays and exceptional circumstances How you will keep records such as finances, hours worked, client work etc. The division of profits and business ownership if applicable By having frank and open discussions at the start of an agreement, it reduces any problems arising in future. Write your agreements, and consider seeking legal advice on things like business ownership, copyright and intellectual property to ensure your business is free from snags and issues that might hamper your well deserved success. Establish your responsibilities An inequality of input is often the cause of things turning sour. If one isn’t pulling their weight, the other party is bound to start resenting the extra time and effort they are putting into making the business work. You both bring different skills and qualities to the job – this is likely to be one of the reasons for you to partner up in the first place. Be very clear at the outset on who will be doing what and the time you will each put in. It may not be a 50/50 agreement – whatever works for you is fine, just make sure you are both in agreement on the finer points of both of your roles and completely satisfied with the arrangement. Any business will have a combination of tasks that are “fun” and some that are more mundane. To avoid resentment and potential disputes, make sure you divide your responsibilities in a way that both the fun, enjoyable tasks and the day-to-day business running chores are well balanced. Work out your skill sets and key areas of specialism to make sure you are each working on the right area of business, and then work out the other tasks which need to be done and share them between you. Financial Focus There are very few start-ups that don’t require any capital to get off the ground. Money is the root of many a dispute. One of you may be investing more money, with the other putting extra work in to balance the deficit in cash. Or, perhaps you are taking out a joint business loan. Whatever the financial details are, get them in writing. Consider elements such as the sources of capital and business loans, ownership of assets and business equipment such as phones, computers, office space rental and any equipment used to run the business. Also, work out between you your plans for profit shares, wages, dividends, and how money will be dealt with and divided as the company grows and progresses. it is worth hiring a solicitor who specialises in company formations to ensure you don’t overlook anything. Allocated friendship only time It can be hard amidst the throes of the 9-5 to maintain your friendship away from the office. Never lose sight of what made you mates in the first place. Set some rules for when not to talk about work and make plans which don’t involve business. While going into business with your friend can be full of pitfalls, it can also be one of the most fun and rewarding journeys. How better to build your very own empire with your best mate beside you every step of the way? Feedback and growth As your journey of business growth evolves over time, build in reflection time to revisit and revise your business. Taking time to work “on” your business rather than “in” your business gives you clarity, perspective, and time to check on how the systems you set in place and working. Check in with each other and allow time for open, honest feedback. Be clear with each other on what you feel is working and what needs to be changed. Allowing easy dialogue between you as business grows can help ensure that your fledgling business thrives and grows over time. Jo Gifford mentors solopreneurs to tell their business story online and to work in smarter, creative ways on www.dexterousdiva.co.uk. Jo Gifford mentors solopreneurs to tell their business story online and to work in smarter, creative ways on www.dexterousdiva.co.uk.