When we tell people we are cofounder counselors, this is probably one of the top questions we get. Is it a good idea to start a business with a friend? Or is it better to find a cofounder through professional networking? While there are pros and cons to each type of cofounder relationship, here are some things to consider when you're thinking of working with a friend.
1. All businesses end eventually. Are you willing to potentially lose this friend at some point if and when the business dissolves or when you're ready to move on to your next project?
2. The past is never really in the past. If you've known someone for a while, chances are you've had arguments here and there, minor irritants between you, tiffs, if you will. These are the kinds of things that come back to haunt you in times of stress, and starting a new business is always stressful. Consider whether you and your friend have the ability to openly communicate with one another, even about hard and uncomfortable topics.
3. Money changes everything. You've heard this before, but trust us, it's true. No matter how close you are with someone, no matter how much you believe you have the best friendship in the world, once finances are involved, the relationship will shift, and the dynamics will change. Are you prepared for that to happen?
4. How are your boundaries? Can you differentiate between business and personal time? Once you start working with a friend, managing your time and space together becomes an important task. You'll need to know the difference between friend time and work time, and be careful not to let the two become confused and muddled together. Of course, this tends to happen anyway, even with the best of intentions. Still, it's something to watch out for.
5. Everybody screws up sometimes. What happens if your friend ends up slacking off? Or what if you get lazy? How will you deal with mistakes, errors, bad judgment, etc.? It's bound to happen to one or both of you at some point. Can you bring the tough love or will it destroy your relationship? Will you be too worried about hurting their feelings to give them direct feedback? Will you be too defensive to accept constructive criticism from them?
6. Who will be in charge? You'll need to establish early on what your roles and responsibilities are, and this includes planning out your leadership structure. Having a clear Partnership Agreement from the beginning can be helpful, but just be aware that in the end, one of you will have to be the boss. Can your friendship handle that?
In truth, there is no way to really know for sure whether you and a friend will succeed in running a business together before you've tried it. Many would say to just avoid these potential pitfalls altogether, by working with someone through professional networking rather than personal connection. This way, the boundaries are clear, feelings are less vulnerable, and decisions pertaining to the business will tend to remain based on professional rather than personal considerations. Others would argue that the benefits of working with a friend - someone you know, trust, and enjoy spending time with - are worth the risk and the work involved. That's for you to decide --- just make sure it's an informed decision.