I’ve started two businesses with friends. One ended amicably. The other? Not so much. If I knew then what I know now . . . famous last words, right?
Now that I’m a Mediator and have conducted many business mediations, I’ve seen a lot of what works and what doesn’t. If you’ve reached that light bulb moment with your friends, and you’ve furiously written down ideas on napkins, hang onto your passion while you consider these seven tips:
Tip #1: Choose Your Lanes. Who’s the salesperson? Who’s the tech expert? Who has a teenager to Instagram? It’s important to recognize your individual strengths and weaknesses and capitalize upon them. Equally as important — know what you don’t know.
Tip #2: Decide on Communication. What works best for you? Weekly meetings? Group texts? Conference calls? Emails? And while you’re at it, commit to a response time. If one of you is inclined to procrastinate while the other is more Type A, figuring out deadlines ahead of time will avoid conflict in the future.
Tip #3: Decide on Who Gets to Decide. What will the decision-making process look like? Unanimous? Pre-approval? Delegation by category? What about purchasing/spending? Billing and accounting? Marketing?
Tip #4: Feedback. Telling the truth to each other is one thing. Being brutally honest or mean is another thing. Talk about what works best for you in terms of feedback, whether critical or complimentary. Talking about how to talk about potential issues is essential.
Tip #5: Establish a Checklist for Resolving Conflict. I believe in conversation, so if you’re at the beginning of a conflict, please TALK ABOUT IT! If you find yourselves at an impasse, bring in someone you both trust to help you understand each other. If that doesn’t work, mediation would be the next logical step. (Have your people call my people to arrange.)
Tip #6: Re-Evaluate Annually. Agree to take an objective look at things on an annual basis. Semi-annually would be even better. Start by talking about what’s working in your business and then move onto what needs improvement.
Tip #7: Be Accountable and Be Kind. If you say you’re going to take care of something, take care of it. If you’re irritated about something your partner did or didn’t do, remember why you’re in business together in the first place. Find something positive to say to counter the negative. Being nice to each other is always good business.
It’s inevitable that you’re going to disagree with your partner from time to time. Therefore, committing to these seven tips will make sense in the long run. And while you’re at it, please don’t forget about getting it in writing.
I’m sure you know about a friendship that ended over a business dispute. In my opinion, friendships can thrive and even grow in business. Just like in a marriage, it takes commitment and communication.
I hope you take these suggestions to heart. I also hope you sell a whole lot of lemonade!