There is so much appeal in starting a business with someone you love — someone you know you get along with, who you want to spend your time with, and who you share a similar point of view with.
That’s why the idea of going into business with a friend seems like such a good one.
“But the reality is that friends don’t always make good business partners,” says Danielle DuBoise, who founded The Sakara Life, an organic meal delivery business and weight-loss program, with her best friend, Whitney Tingle, in 2011.
“Being a good friend doesn’t mean they’re good at project management, pulling all-nighters to meet a deadline, or creating Excel spreadsheets,” DuBoise explains. “There are a ton of skills that you should be certain your business partner has that you might not ever know just from being friends.”
“Above all, there has to be an incredibly strong mutual desire to align on a mission,” she continues, “and willingness to put equal amounts of time into getting that mission accomplished (basically all day, every day) — especially if you’re coming in as equal partners.”
Tingle and DuBoise, however, are proving that it can work.
They say in order to successfully start and run a business with a friend, there are a few things you need to think about before you even propose the idea.
For instance, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- “Do I trust this person completely — on a personal level, spiritual level, and skill level?”
- “Have I ever seen this friend in a business situation or predicament, and how did they handle it?”
- “Is this person a good communicator?”
- “Do we agree on the mission and vision?”
- “Do we agree on what type of culture to create?”
- “What’s the worst case scenario?”
- “Will this partnership ruin our friendship?”
- “How would you feel if this failed?”
Plus, “if you are starting a business with a friend, make sure they are a self-motivated, self-managed self-starter,” Tingle adds. “You’ll have a whole team to manage; you don’t want to manage your business partner, too.”
Tingle and DuBoise offer the following tips:
1. Start a business with a friend who you have an insane amount of respect and admiration for. “Someone who you admire for their strength, intelligence, and innovation,” says DuBoise. “This mutual respect will do wonders for your trust and, most likely, serve as an indication that your talents as individuals complement each other’s nicely.”
2. Use your intuition. “That’s one advantage to working with friends: They’re not strangers, so use that extra connection you have to really hear and empathise with your partner. And remember that if you’ve done everything right, you’re all going for the same goal, so things don’t always have to go as planned,” says Tingle. The plan can change along the way, so be open to change.
3. Don’t take anything personally. “This is business,” says DuBoise. You need to grow a thick skin.
4. Take time outside of the office to spend time as friends. “Relationships take work, and the company depends on our relationship, so we make sure we take the time to nurture it,” Tingle explains.
Tingle and DuBoise have been best friends since middle school. They met in the seventh grade and always wanted to create something big together. “We just had no idea what that was,” says DuBoise.
Fast-forward 10 years to 2011. The Arizona natives were living in New York City, sharing a one-bedroom “closet of an apartment” in Soho, struggling with their bodies, unable to find a healthy balance in the city, and “totally fed up with anything that required us to live in any kind of extreme.”
“We came to Sakara from different places but with the same problem we knew we needed to fix, and the critical thing was that we both knew that solving this problem was bigger than us,” says Tingle. “Solving that problem became our mission: to help you feel good in your body again. When you set a mission that is bigger than you, there is no room for pettiness. You are equal co-creators on a trajectory to initiate change.”
DuBoise adds that when you choose a good friend as a business partner, you have to agree to “learn and master the art of compromise to the extent that it will no longer even feel like compromise.”
This goes hand in hand with ensuring that there is a solid foundation of trust that you work off of, she adds. “There is a natural ebb and flow of decision-making and give-and-take that exists when you work off of trust. If we disagree but one of us is super passionate or sure about something, then we’ll agree to go with that,” DuBoise explains. “We listen to our intuition and trust each other without pause (but that also takes work!). Make time to keep that trust between the two of you.”
Together with their Sakara team, Tingle and DuBoise have delivered over 100,000 meals since launching their business four years ago.
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