Starting a business with a buddy

The friendships you form during your student years will be unlike any other time in your life. Most of these friends will stay your friends throughout your life, even if you lose immediate contact, there will always be that special connection. During your studies, you will share a lot. From study notes, adventures to epic all-nighters. But what about sharing a business plan? 

Starting a business with a good friend is often seen as risky and the irony is that most people will prefer not to mix business relations with personal ones. Yet, many great ventures started off with a great idea between two or more good friends. Think of companies such as Ben&Jerry’s Ice Cream, Sprout Social and Warby Parker. 

Warby Parker’s founders Neil Blumenthal, Dave Gilboa, Andrew Hunt and Jeffrey Raider were all friends during their student years at Wharton in Philadelphia. They all shared a similar frustration with expensive glasses and saw an opportunity to provide high quality, affordable spectacles online. The story is that it all started one night at their local bar.  That night they also promised that no matter how hard they’ll to launch the company, it will not be at the cost of their friendship. 

The benefits

  • You already know and trust each other. Trust is at the heart of any good business partnership. If you trust your friend now, there is a good chance that you will trust him or her in business. 
  • In your friendship, you naturally feed off each other’s strengths and support each other in their weaknesses. If you can translate this into your partnership, you will be well on your ways. 
  • People respond well to positive energy. If you can carry the magic of your friendship into your shared business venture, your staff and clients will be drawn to that. 

The cons

  • You will fight. It’s the nature of the beast and it will put a new spin on your friendship. 
  • Power dynamics will suddenly come into play.
  • If things go south, your friendship might go south too. 

Find the balance

  • Do it properly. Because of your friendship, you might not consider all the things that you would have if it was purely professional. Do the paperwork right from day one. 
  • Stay on the same page when it comes to vision and values.
  • Maintain your professional and personal relationship. Work hard on your professional relationship, but do not neglect to nurture the friendship.