Getting into business with a friend. Should you or shouldn't you?
Jennifer, here. I don’t know about you, but I am in a ton of free Facebook groups. Overwhelming as they are, I have seen some pretty cool collaborations and partnerships develop. I’ve also seen lots of members looking for partnerships or collaborations in these free groups and it makes me want to say Stoooooop! You don’t even know these people!
Before you enter in to a partnership or collaboration, read the tips below to get into the right mindset. If you aren’t a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up to receive our free Partnership worksheet. Even if you aren’t entering into a partnership right now, it’s a good one to save if the time comes.
First, make sure you really know each other.
Do you feel like you’ve been friends long enough to build trust and test your relationship? Do you simply get along with each other? Don’t underestimate this. If you’ve ever had a negative or weird feeling about your prospective partner, you many need to reconsider. Make sure your communication is strong, with an open dialogue, and you have a shared vision. No one can read minds, so this is paramount. Always set expectations and provide clarity. This is a conscious choice and purposeful necessity throughout your partnership.
Your vision and purpose should align. Nothing will derail your partnership sooner. Have deep conversations about where this business and partnership will go in the future.
Even if you approach things differently, it’s important to have trust and respect for each other. It should be fun to accomplish things together.
Use Compatible Skills and Offset Your Strengths & Weaknesses
Good partnerships work when you each bring a different skill set to the business. You don’t need to both be a designer or both be good at accounting. You need to choose one and stay out of the way, but give each other updates, too. One of you may be the “face” of the business and they other to visionary or behind-the-scenes person. Decide on what each of you will take the lead on and “stay in your lane”.
Your responsibilities need to be different and you’ll need to have respect for each other’s decisions when in their “lane”. You need to feel like there is an even contribution from each party, too. List out each others Strengths Finder 2.0 and/or Myers-Briggs results to understand each other better. These tests can really show you how to handle conflict, workplace habits, stress, and more.
Have the Hard Conversations Up Front
You should never have a 50/50 split in any partnership. There must be a leader and someone who can make the final call, especially if it’s just two of you and there isn’t a third person for a tie breaker. If there is a third person, be aware that two partners can gang up on each other to win a vote, whether intentional or not. I’ve actually seen this happen to a friend of mine. They wanted her monetary investment as a partner, but when it came to making business decisions, the other two women would bully the third and make poor choices due to lack of experience. Guess what? The business and partnership dissolved.
Expenses and investments should be shared. If you both put money into the business, you should both be responsible for what you’re spending, too. Your partnership should be mutually beneficial - will you both gain something from it? Being able to have tough discussions about money is important so make sure you are both comfortable with it, even if you were taught that it’s rude to discuss it. This is easy to skip because you likely trust the person you’re thinking of going into business with, but don’t skip this discussion.
Conflict and disagreements can be a positive thing if approached as the creative process - brainstorming and using it to better the product or service you’re delivering. Make decisions based on analysis and solid information instead of emotion and keep each other in check for it. Allow each other to be imperfect and find solutions together.
You should also have your attorney set up a limited partnership so one partner is not liable for the actions or obligations of the general partner. Choose an attorney who knows partnership agreements well and make sure to draw one up that you both agree on before you begin your partnership. You’ll need to register your business and partnership with your local, state, and federal governments, too. An attorney or CPA can help you with that and it varies by state.
Decide on an Exit Strategy
If you were Beyonce and Jay-Z, you’d probably have a prenup. You should have one for your business collaboration or partnership, too. From the very beginning, you should discuss what will happen if one of you wants or needs out. What does that look like for each of you? Define your terms and make sure it is in writing, so things are left on good terms and with a healthy business if one of you does need to exit the business. Don’t go into a partnership expecting your friendship to last if your business relationship breaks up.
You’ll never be able to see every conflict or decision that needs to be made before you create your partnership. Make a pact to be in constant communication and have an “open door” policy to bring up conflicts or decisions professionally and early. It’s just like a romantic relationship: if you let the frustration build, you’re more likely to explode one day. Bring it up early when you recognize a potential issue, before you’re irritated, and approach your partner with respect.
Find a project management tool or something that will help you keep up with what the other is doing without feeling like you’re checking up on each other. We like using Trello, a free application that allows you to see everyone at a glance and keep up with tasks and messages. Slack is another option for team communication. Set a weekly call to update each other on progress. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Partnerships aren’t for everyone and it’s okay to walk away. If you’re already in a partnership and it feels forced, reconsider it and regroup together. Likely, your partner feels the same way and would welcome the conversation. If you’re nervous to jump into a full-fledged partnership, try collaborating on a project together first and see how it goes.
If you aren’t a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up to receive our free Partnership worksheet.
Do you have any partnership or collaboration success or horror stories? We’d love to hear them! Share them below!
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.stationeryacademy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Jennifer-Faught-Stationery-Academy.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]This post was written by Stationery Academy owner/president, Jennifer Faught. Sign up for our emails to get even more delightful surprises from us every other week.[/author_info] [/author]