Since starting this adventure into entrepreneurship, I’ve heard many things about the pros and cons of doing business with family and/or close friends. While most of it initially was hearsay, I managed to get first hand tales from speaking to entrepreneurs like Ija Mohan and Wai Hong as well as a couple more friends that have had such an experience.
From what I’ve heard so far, it’s mostly bad news to do so. However, last week as I listened to another entrepreneur friend that’s doing business with her family, I realised that as challenging as it sounds, it was also a pretty amazing personal learning experience. Through that chat, these are the things that one can realise through that journey.
How well you manage relationships
As it is, entrepreneurship takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. When you couple it with working with someone that you have a connection with, there’s a potential to magnify those effects. Managing your own emotions is already challenging, but when you bundle it with someone that you care about, it’s harder because there can seem like more is at risk.
When there’s more pressure or a disagreement with how things are done, the 2 extremes could be you being too afraid to sour a relationship, not voicing your thoughts, thus feeling like you’re ‘compromising’, or butting heads too often because of the inability to get your point across well. How well you manage business and personal relationships is a powerful life skill, and training it with family or a best friend is the toughest field to do it in.
Where you draw your lines
There are many unknowns that crop up during any venture. Whether it’s having to decide how you communicate your brand or product, work schedules, quality of deliverables, or a host of other things, you’re faced with key decisions that impact the fate of the business. You’ll likely be doing this regardless, but when in a partnership, more of those decisions will come to light.
It’s when both of you feel strongly and have opposing opinions about a decision when things get interesting. You’ll have acknowledge and articulate why you feel strongly about it, and whether or not to ‘let it slide’ for risk of conflict. This give and take process will help you identify where you stand firmly in the areas surrounding your business and even other areas in life.
What are your deeper or true motivations
Like the above, only when your journey has begun do you sometimes uncover things you didn’t expect. What could have started out as a “Cool business with a buddy” might change when after a year, you or the other person loses passion. Was the drive really about building a business? The idea? Or even the relationship itself?
That chat I had with my friend revealed that we might be completely oblivious to it, only until it’s pointed out to us. It’s not so much that we are blind or weak, but that it’s simply difficult to separate things when there’s so much on the line, whether relationship, money or ego.
The biggest tip: Clear expectations and direct communications
The good news is that the advice on how to improve working arrangements applies not only to those that have chosen to work with family or close friends. Another entrepreneur friend echoes the recommendations that’s listed below, which is to be as clear as possible with your expectations, including how you communicate it.
In my own journey, this is definitely a skill that I can vouch for that’s necessary. When there’s something unclear or misaligned, what’s worked is to simply be up front about it without too much fuss or built up emotions. Once resolved, business (and life) goes on!
The process of working with others is truly a great opportunity for self discovery. Even with ‘just partners’, I’ve learned so much about myself. For those of you that have gone into business with family or friends, any advice to share?