What To Know Before Working With A Friend
It’s not inconceivable that two friends would find a reason to work together, or would even come up with a business idea together. You may have become friends because you work in the same or adjacent industries. And, since you do have the same interests and passions, you likely chat about these, and spark ideas. You see businesses started by friends all of the time. But there’s one thing I know every friend-business-duo will tell you: working with your friend changes the friendship forever. It just does. Your friendship won’t be the exception. I’ve worked with friends several times, and even I know this to be true. Now, to be clear, I have friends who started as colleagues, and we developed a friendship after. That’s easier. There’s always that foundation of a professional relationship, and the friendship was just the cherry on top. But, starting as friends and becoming business partners is very different. Here’s what to prepare for when working with a friend.
If you don’t have to, then don’t
I mean it. Only do this thing with this friend if this is literally the only person with whom you can do this thing. If you could pull it off, just as well, with a pure work acquaintance, go in that direction. Good friends are hard to come by and I promise you now, your friendship will not be the same after working together.
Create a contract
So you have decided to work together. Okay, now create a contract. It can feel silly to do this with a friend. Your friend would never screw you over, right? It’s not that simple. You have no idea what can happen or for how many years this business will go on. Having a contract just makes things simple, and keeps debates from getting personal. It’s in the contract. You both agreed on this from the beginning. That’s that.
Be prepared for a different tone
You’re going to hear your friend talk to you in a tone that she’s never used around you before. It may be militant, straight to the point, and even a little cold. That’s just her business tone. It’s not even that mean, but compared to her friend tone, it can feel quite jarring.
During business, the business comes first
When you are doing business and/or are at work, the good of the business must come first. What I mean is that, even if you’re fighting with your boyfriend and want to lament to your friend, it’s not the time. If it interferes with, hinders, or harms your work, you must put it aside. These are business hours after all. You must both follow that rule, and not take it personally.
During friendship, the friendship comes first
When it’s pure friendship time, just be friends. What I mean by that is, let’s say your friend is having relationship issues. She wants your advice and comfort. You personally know her relationship issues have been getting in the way of her doing good work. This is not the time to say that. This is the time to be a supportive friend. You can bring up how her relationship gets in the way of her work during business hours.
Following the last two rules is very hard
Know that following those last two stated rules feels very hard and never gets easier. It won’t come naturally. But those are boundaries you must maintain for the health of the friendship and the business.
Don’t expect special treatment
If you make a huge mistake, or if you feel too tired or sad to work, do not expect special treatment. Agree with your friend from the beginning not to give one another special treatment. If you do that, you go down a slippery slope that affects the quality of your work. When you mess up, you have to fix it and pay the price. When you’re sad, you have to work anyways.
Let your friend give you feedback
Get ready for your friend to give you feedback aka constructive criticism aka criticism. Yuck. That feels bad coming from a friend. But you have to bite your tongue and accept it. Maybe she isn’t allowed to tell you, on the friend side, that you date losers but she is allowed to tell you on the business side that you pursue poor-quality employees. You can’t get mad when she gives you business feedback.
Give feedback as needed
You must also be comfortable giving feedback. Remaining quiet, all because it’s uncomfortable to give your friend constructive criticism, hurts your business.
Find time to just be friends
Make sure you still make time to just be friends. Take trips together. Go to the movies. Carve out time that’s just about the friendship.
Try not to see this as a “new side” of her
Don’t see your friend differently based on how she is at work. Most people are a completely different person in their work relationships versus their personal ones. They have to, in order to do a good job in their work. Don’t judge your friend as a friend based on how she behaves at work.
Have a strict no-distractions rule at work
It will be easy to get distracted when you work with a friend. You’ll get a message from a guy on a dating app, want to show it to your friend, and suddenly you’ve been looking at other dudes’ profiles for an hour instead of working. Have a strict rule against behavior like this.
You know each other’s strengths
The cool thing about working with a friend is that you know her strengths, really well. You can quickly identify which tasks she’d be great at.
But, you know each other’s weaknesses
You also know her weaknesses, on the personal side, and you may fear these apply to her work, too. So, you may be quick to decide she shouldn’t do something in business, because of those weaknesses. She won’t appreciate that.
It’ll make your friendship better or ruin it
Working with a friend has the potential to make this friendship remarkably strong. The reason that is, however, is that surviving conflict makes relationships stronger. So, that being said, there will be a lot of conflict and your friendship may not survive it.