Things to Know Before Starting a Company with Friends

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What do entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have in common? Awesome friends and business partners in the form of Steve Wozniak and Paul Allen, respectively.

Their friendship made them not only successful, but Paul Allen was actually the one to persuade Bill gates to eventually drop college and pursue a career in software development; thus Microsoft was born. Tales of their partnership have become a thing of legend. Yet, it took them many long and strenuous years to get there.

Here are a few important things you need to know before accomplishing the same level of success with your business partner.

Make Sure You Are Compatible

Starting a business with someone is a lot like travelling — good buddies don’t necessarily make for good travel companions. Therefore, it’s important to know fairly early on whether your personalities are actually compatible with one another and how. For instance, this does not mean that you have to be the exact same person. Yet, you do need to share some life philosophies and ideas to really understand one another. Speaking of which, you also need to know and respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses. That way you can all assume roles that best suit your skills without having the other person go mad with envy. In the end, you’ll be more productive and you’ll accomplish many things thanks to your sound teamwork.

Have the Same Expectations and Goals

Simply being compatible with your partner is not enough — you need to be on the same page. During your journey together, there will be many decisions and choices that need to be made. By ensuring that each party entertains the same expectations, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary conflict and drama. So, sit down with your business partner/s and create a joint vision. Think about the goals you want to accomplish together and be specific; write them all down to epitomize your steadfast determination. Also, discuss the possible timeline for each milestone and how you plan on achieving these. If you already have difficulties establishing a consensus at this stage, perhaps starting a joint operation wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Team showing their unity

Establish Clear Roles from the Start

Many partnerships fall into the trap thinking that their friendship is enough to hold things together. Well, it is not. To avoid any power struggles and confusions early on, you need to establish clear roles between business partners from the very start. For instance, the Founders’ Agreement contract will help you lay the foundation of your business with clear rules, contributions, and roles being specified for each founder; including, shares, how you handle confidential information, protecting intellectual property, etc. As you can probably tell, it’s a rather delicate piece of paper that warrants accurate phrasing and the specific use of language. Hence, you need to take a look at some extremely detailed business document templates beforehand to make sure you don’t leave any legal loopholes behind.

In essence, the longer you put this off, the more challenging — and awkward — things become later on.

Nothing Personal

It’s just business, as the old adage goes. You need to do your best to separate your business relationship from your personal one. Just because you’re friends doesn’t mean you have to agree on completely everything. There will even be times when you’ll question your friendship; it’s a fine balancing act, to say the least. Stay professional. Use strictly business channels to communicate with each other on issues regarding your business and leave personal channels for personal matters. The same goes for your finances; keep the two apart. That way, you won’t mix these two together (as easily) and cause an emotional and nervous breakdown in your head; work is work, home is home.

Nurture Your Friendship

Don’t think for a moment that working together is enough to keep your friendship alive and kicking. Carve out some free time every once in a while and spend some quality time together. This will not only make you feel more refreshed but you’ll also solidify the relationship you have with your business partner; personal and otherwise. If anything, it will help remove any potential strains that have developed in your relationship either due to stress or other work-related issues. Try going back to the very roots of your relationship and do things that brought you together in the first place. Whatever you choose, make sure you do it outside the office! Also, don’t hesitate to give each other some time apart, if need be; there’s no need to be clingy, you see each other every day during working hours.

If all else fails, think of an adequate exit strategy. That way, even if your business does go to ruin, you can at least salvage your friendship.

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