Cardinal Rules For Working With Friends

November 1, 2019  |  
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asking for what you want at work

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Should you go into business with a friend? Well, some might say that if you can avoid it, avoid it. Combining your worlds—social and professional—can get messy, and one can quickly destroy the other. That being said, you can’t choose with whom you have a brilliant business idea. And it’s very common to brainstorm a business idea with a friend. You spend a lot of time together. You encounter the same life issues and nuisances that you both want to solve. You think alike—that’s why you’re friends. You love to shoot a breeze. It’s only natural that one night, over drinks, you may just be riffing about something when you realize, “Wait a minute…that’s something we could actually make money on.” You probably won’t just let the other one have the idea, alone, as you came up with it, together. So now you may go into business with a friend. Here are some cardinal rules for doing so.

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Pick someone you can communicate with

If you are still in a place where you can decide which friend you work with, consider communication. It’s so important to work with someone who usually understands your meaning and your intentions. If you have a friend with whom there are always misunderstandings, backpedaling, apologizing, and over-explaining, don’t work with that friend.

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And avoid fragile egos

You need to be able to speak your mind to your business partner. If she has an idea that you just know won’t work, or requires tweaking, you need to feel safe telling her that, without fear of backlash. So don’t work with fragile egos. Maybe you can tolerate them as friends, but in a business partner, you need someone with tough skin who can hear the truth.

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Always keep an open mind

Any time your friend brings an idea to the table, approach it with a yes mentality. Don’t shift into picking it apart and finding the holes in it. Say, “That’s a very interesting idea. Can you tell me more about what got you excited about that?” Maybe you know there are holes in it, and by asking her to talk it out more, she’ll find those holes, too—rather than you having to point them out.

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Get in a yin and yang relationship

Your instinct may be to work with someone who thinks just like you, but that’s actually not the best idea. You should work with someone who has complimentary strengths to yours. You should work with someone who gets excited about the types of tasks you shy away from. You should work with someone who will tell you, when you’re feeling lazy or disenchanted, that you have to get back to work—not someone who will say, “Yeah, let’s quit for today.”

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You can keep your tone friendly

You are friends, and you can still speak to each other as such. It’s common for friends who work together to feel like they need to take on some new persona in the workspace, behaving completely differently towards each other. Forget that. One of your greatest assets here is the joy you feel from being around each other. So keep that body language and tone positive.

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But you must keep each other in check

You do need to hold one another accountable, which can be awkward with a friend. It’s easy to tell a friend, “Yeah, it’s okay if you slack off” because you feel for her. But, unfortunately, you can’t run a business like that. If your friend is going through something, you can take a moment to comfort her, but then you need to get on with the work.

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Don’t forget to hang socially

Don’t let your relationship become strictly professional. Just like in any company, where it’s good for morale to get the coworkers out of the office for happy hour of a softball game, it’s important for you and your friend to still be friends. So still socialize, outside of work, and don’t talk about work at those times.

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When it comes to money, be fair

When you do business with people you aren’t personally involved with, it may be standard practice to try to get as much money as you can. It’s every woman for herself. But when you work with a friend, you have to be fair about money. You just have to be. If you get grabby, you’ll ruin the friendship and the professional dynamic.

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When other friends want to join…

Other friends may see you two working together and think, “That looks fun! I have ideas to bring to the table!” So, friends may approach you and ask to get on board. You have to tread lightly here. You must always talk to your business partner first. But know it’s probably best to have as few friends working together as possible. Two can be a team—three or more can be drama.

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Make sure your dynamic is sustainable

Ask yourself if you could gladly spend seven to 12 hours a day, five to seven days a week with this person. Could you tolerate her personality for that much time? That’s how much time you’ll spend together if you’re starting a business.

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Don’t freak out over disputes

Don’t panic when you two do not agree on how something should be done. That will happen many, many times throughout the years you do business together. Embrace this conflict—understand that it’s just a sign that you both care deeply about the business. Now, work through it calmly.

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Don’t vent to other friends

While you can vent to common friends about personal matters with this friend, you can’t vent to them about business. If you are unhappy with something pertaining to your business, you should be talking to your business partner. She shouldn’t fear that you’re going to complain about it to your common friends.

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Capitalize on known strengths

One of the great benefits of working with a friend is that you understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses—and well. Make use of that. Assign each other tasks that play to your strengths.

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Draw up contracts

Though this is a friend who you trust, always get everything in writing. Create legal documents and contracts that are specific. Don’t shake on it. Don’t just pinky promise. Get it in writing—it benefits both of you.

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Celebrate together!

Don’t forget to celebrate together! When you get that seed money, that deal, that sponsorship, that shout-out by that publication—celebrate! Go out to drinks or dinner. That’s one of the best parts of working with a friend. You truly get to enjoy your success together.

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