How to Run a Small Biz with a Friend and Remain Friends

Getty Images

When it comes to starting your own business with friends and/or family, there's one rule of thumb: don't.

But, hey, rules were made to be completely disregarded, right? And it happens. You can't help who gets your creative juices flowing and whom you wind up spending a lot of your time brainstorming with.

If it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen. But, kinda like that last scene in Thelma and Louise, if you're going to go off a cliff together, you might as well remain friends in the process.

Findlaw Small Business Law Blog Free Enterprise has a rather digestible five-item list that prescribes how to accomplish this. And if you don't think it can't happen to you and your bestie, guess again. You were friends when money and potential creative tension or different visions entered the picture.

First off, and this is a point Findlaw makes as well, have a conversation about why you two want to work together and what the roles will be. I know from firsthand experience and from colleagues that if you don't, what will wind up happening is you both gravitate towards your strengths and stuff will start to fall through the cracks. Then bitterness or agitation will start to grow and fester. That's, well, bad. And it can be avoided if you, as Findlaw suggests, create a written agreement. It should also have a trapdoor, or "a strategy for one to peacefully buyout the other in the event one of you wishes to leave."

Also, and this is probably the most important. Both of these points:

Your business attorney can review the agreement on behalf of the business. But you and your friend should each hire a different attorney to review the document to make sure you are individually protected and to explain how the agreement affects you.

You may now see each other daily at work. But you still need to make time to see each other outside of the office. Do the things you used to do together as friends before you became business partners. It will remind you of the importance of your friendship and help alleviate business tensions.

So, now you guys will be friends forever. (You're welcome!) May I suggest a sporting game of putt-putt before it starts to get too cold for such things?

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

Contact Us