by | Apr 25, 2023 | Business Partnerships

Often, I am asked, “Should I be a partner with my friend or family member?”. My answer is “maybe”, depending on a lot of details that are for another article. Let’s assume the answer in your case is “yes”. Then, what are the particular challenges you will face?

The major one is that you will act out your friendship or relationship during the course of doing your business. The way to avoid that is to structure business behavior in such a way that relegates your personal relationship to secondary status during business hours.

One married couple I coached solved this aspect of their business/marriage by making strict rules about the hours when business is conducted and when they are a married couple.

They scheduled meetings on a regular basis with a clear business agenda. They even go on an annual retreat to do the yearly reevaluation of their goals.  During family time, no business is discussed.

One business owned by two best friends whose pattern had been to communicate very casually with each other about the business couldn’t figure out why their sales were so low.  Their lack of leadership and business-like behavior trickled down to employees who floundered rather than produced.

In coaching sessions, they identified the problem as a lack of sales, when, in fact, upon closer examination, it became clear that the lack of sales was only a symptom of something more systemic. The problem was their friendship, which they put first throughout the day. They didn’t discuss their systems in a business-like manner, they never addressed differences or something that might lead to disagreement and they didn’t challenge each other.  They had no process in place for resolving disagreements and so avoided having them.  They had a laissez-faire approach to running the business and as a result, there were no clear instructions, expectations, or systems for their 3 employees.

There are a multitude of reasons why a partnership with a friend might be a bad idea.  Putting friendship first while conducting business is probably the biggest.

When the partners are family members, acting out the relationship happens naturally and is hard to avoid.   For example, sibling rivalry or parents who are authoritarian and don’t let the children take charge can be very detrimental to the success of the business and by the way to the family relationships after the business.

I am a customer at a very busy hair salon managed by the wife of the head stylist.  They are said to have a good marriage, but at the salon itself, you would not know that they are married.  They each conduct themselves in their roles and don’t interact in a personal way ever during business hours.

In another business, selling home accessories, owned by husband and wife, disagreements between them are commonplace and loud disregarding whoever happens to be in the store at the moment.

Clearly, the relationship between the partners directly affects the bottom line.  Customers and employees enjoy the ambiance of the hair salon and definitely not the home accessory store where they may stumble upon a very unpleasant scene.

Of course, once you and your friend or family member have had the partnership conversations and know that you are able to conduct business separate from friendship not to the detriment of either relationship, a partnership with a friend can be very successful.

Have the conversations to establish a clear-cut understanding of every aspect of your business and the roles each of you will play.  Have a structure of regular meetings in place. Make sure your communication is detailed and clear to avoid misinterpretations and misunderstandings. Keep your friendship and family relationship second and separate for after hours. Be businesslike while conducting business.

As your coach, I’d guide you through the necessary conversations and point out your blind spots.  Sign up for a free consultation here

And, enjoy your success!