creative zone

Working together: 6 ways to remain friends with your business partner

Yes, it is possible to remain friends with your business partner and build a relationship that yields greater success.

However, like all good partnerships, it is imperative to nurture your relationship by considering several crucial areas that can make or break your friendship and business growth:

  • Work towards clear goals
  • Define business roles and friendship dynamics
  • Develop and grow with each other
  • Create a mindful relationship built on honesty and trust
  • Review progress and keep communicating
  • Nurture your relationship in and out of work

So let’s look at those in more detail.

Work toward clear idealistic goals

When you create a company with a friend, having an idealistic but flexible plan of the future is crucial.

In her book Quirky, business professor Melissa Schilling notes that great entrepreneurs invariably displayed ‘intense idealism and an intense focus on a superordinate goal, and this sense of purpose profoundly shaped their behaviour.’

Elon Musk is a good example – one of his goals is to colonise Mars. However, if his idea of reusable rockets becomes obsolete, he can evolve to find a new way to achieve this central objective.

When you’re partnered-up, your vision needs to be perfectly aligned.

If one partner has a dream of building a business inside Dubai, while another secretly harbours hopes of global expansion, then you are already causing friction. Even deciding which type of business license in the UAE is best, or considering shared working spaces versus private offices, will create a potential division.

Of course, things can change, and the aspirations of all concerned can evolve over time. So re-evaluate regularly.

Define business roles and friendship dynamics

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, of Apple fame, are a great example of a successful startup between friends. But their business relationship is also an excellent case study of how to create harmony between yourself and your partner.

Wozniak was an electronics genius, while Jobs had a head for marketing. Some reports suggest the pair used to have their fair share of disagreements, but Wozniak commented in 2014 that despite different personalities, they were always friends.

Like Jobs and Wozniak, you and your partner may have distinctly different personalities, skills, and strengths. One of you may work best from a quiet private office, while the other might thrive in a hub community.

These differences can make things tricky, without effective communication.

The big profits can start to roll in, and it’s easy to start feeling like one partner isn’t pulling their weight.

This makes it imperative to set clear boundaries on work responsibilities and duties.

If you both have your own areas of ownership, you will avoid overstepping. This way you will both have measurable tasks to complete individually and can be held accountable.

Develop and grow with each other

Encouraging personal growth and skill development is likely to benefit your business friendship.

The Journal of Happiness suggests that learning something new that is ‘self-selected’ may be particularly beneficial when it comes to happiness and competency.

It’s important to stress the point that you should try and encourage your colleague to master a new skill based on their own curiosity, rather than forcing them to do something.

Ultimately, if both you and your friend embrace the idea of life-long development, and understanding the mechanics behind self-selected learning, then you’ll strengthen your trust in each other while driving your business forward. Assuming you’re both aligned with success, each of you will innately choose to learn things that benefit your company.

Create a mindful relationship built on honesty and trust

With The Harvard Business Review recommending regular meditation as a means of enhancing emotional intelligence, developing mindfulness can be a useful strategy to enhance your relationships at work.

While you don’t have to go to extreme levels such as Twitter’s co-founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey’s 10-day stint at a silent meditation retreat, you may find a 10-20 minute meditation session helpful.

Research by leading US workforce consultants, Life Meets Work, has confirmed what entrepreneurs already know: If you are a stressed leader, it is felt by everyone in your company – including those you value as friends.

Mindfulness can give you more hope, optimism, self-efficacy, and resilience, which are vital for good relationships.

Review progress and keep communicating

Being extremely honest, sharing ideas, and being open to change are all tools that will stand your business friendship in good stead.

While one-to-one meetings may suit you if you’re firm friends, it can also be useful to include another colleague to act as a mediator and give you both honest and constructive feedback.

Nurture your relationship in and out of work

It’s hard for entrepreneurs to take time off from work, but research suggests that the success of our companies depends on it. It provides detachment that helps to prevent burnout.

This includes carefully thinking about time on and off from your friend, both in the workplace and externally.

It is vital to find ways to switch off from work and enjoy downtime with your friend. At the same time, we all need time alone within any relationship, so consider how much breathing space you need both at work and externally.

Many entrepreneurs create companies with people they consider to be friends. Equally, strong bonds can form between partners who start out as mere business acquaintances. Although the challenge can be a test, by actively working on your relationship you can remain friends with your business partner and potentially build a bond that yields greater success.

Steve Mayne | Managing Partner – CREATIVE ZONE

Steve Mayne is a founding Managing Partner of CREATIVE ZONE – Dubai’s largest company formation firm, established in 2010. He brings more than 26 years of experience in sales, business consultancy, corporate leadership, and entrepreneurship to his many commercial and community endeavors. 

He has also worked with a number of global organisations specialising in logistics and process engineering. With his expertise in workspace solutions and company formation consultancy, he has played an integral role in providing support and advice to many startups and incubation centres.

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