My best friend and I would lock ourselves in my tiny, yellow room in Brooklyn, and sit on my bed with a hundred pieces of paper around us, as we quietly and carefully plotted how we would launch our business.
This was an exercise we completed several times during the course of our 15-year friendship, but this time it was serious.
My sister from another mister and I were planning something life-changing together. I had always wanted to start my own business, and — as she well knew — I always wanted to do it with her. The risks of our adventure were more than possible business’s failure. It was the failure of our friendship that worried us more than anything. Would our friendship stand up against the pressures of being in business together? Could we go into business together and remain best friends?
The answer, as we now know, is yes.
As we walked through the long hallways of our accountant’s office it felt like walking down the aisle. We made it official — binding ourselves together for good times and bad. We promised to work our hardest for our own sakes but, more importantly, to make each other proud.
Why friendships with business benefits fail
However, we were bombarded with messages from others who say it’s a bad idea to do business with family and friends. Things can get messy. The relationships you have so carefully and lovingly cultivated with people can irreparably implode. We did it anyway.
So why do so many friendships and business ventures fail with all their good intentions? There are two mistakes that entrepreneurs make.
No due diligence
When we go into business ventures with family or friends, we often omit steps because we love and trust one another. However, this is where things begin to fall apart — when there is a lack of set expectations.
Formalities — like contracts — are there for a reason. They serve to make everything clear, and put it all out on the table. When there is clarity, mutual understanding and set expectations, all is well on both sides.
When you go into business with family or friends, things can become very emotional. You will inevitably need to give one another feedback. Sometimes it is hard to separate emotions from the facts.
This is why it’s important to carefully craft your communication with one another in a way that lands most effectively. And always remember it’s for the good of the whole and not a criticism on your performance. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to talk your feelings out. Communicate with one another when something bothers you; don’t let it fester.
Starting a business with friends
Throughout this journey, we have found that being such good friends has actually helped us in avoiding poor communication with one another. Because we have such a deep understanding of one another’s nuanced personalities, we know how to communicate with one another effectively.
So what about being hired by, or hiring friends and family? When you begin a business, much of your clientele comes from people you know personally. This group of clientele, however, should be treated with formality and a special dedication to professionalism. Organization, in this case, is a key factor to make sure things go smoothly.
Before you begin work with friends or family as partners or clients, sign contracts and schedule formal meetings. These measures are not nuisances — they are necessary steps to cultivate a successful end result.
This article has been edited.
Emily Nhaissi is the co-founder and CEO of Craft & Root, leading the business development arm of the company.
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