Running a business on your own can be isolating. A business partner can motivate and support you during the good times and the bad. But should your business partner be a close friend?

When you’re starting a business it seems reasonable to partner with someone you can trust like a good friend, but did you know around 80% of business partnerships fail?

If you’re considering partnering with a friend, first ask yourself if they have any of these characteristics.

Good characteristics:
  • Integrity – are they honest and have strong moral principles that align with your own?
  • Strong work ethic – are they disciplined, motivated and form good work habits?
  • Persistence – with such a large percentage of business partnerships failing, a good partner will remain dedicated during the challenging times.

Bad characteristics:
  • A big ego – your partner should be open to learning what they don’t know, not an individual who assumes they ‘know it all’. 
  • Overly passionate – passion is good, but being overly passionate without diligence and research can lead to rushed decisions and unrealistic expectations.
  • All talk – having ideas is important: being able to action those ideas effectively is the real key.  

What’s next?

If your potential business partner is a good fit and they tick the ‘good characteristics’ boxes, here’s what you should do to make sure the business thrives and your friendship survives.

Rely on each other’s strengths, don’t fight them

Even in close friendships, it’s likely you and your business partner are very different people and handle certain situations in different ways.

You might be calm in a crisis, whereas your partner is hot-headed and panics. You might be an extrovert and an expert networker, whereas your partner is more logical and attentive to detail.

Acknowledge these strengths from the very beginning and use them to your advantage when doing business and making decisions.

Recognise when you should pick up the slack

You should always try to put yourself in your business partner’s shoes, and vice versa. There will be times when your business partner is away or sick and you will need to pick up the slack. A good business partner will return the favour if roles were reversed.

Having this uninterrupted access to a helping hand when you need it is one of the reasons why going into business with a friend can be so valuable.

Align your vision and goals, even if it means compromising

No matter how well you get along with your business partner, the work relationships won’t gel until your vision and goals are aligned. It’s important to be open and vocal about these goals at all times. Check in regularly with each other on the direction of the company.

Ensure you are always on the same page and don’t undermine each other – especially when it comes to customers. This doesn’t mean you need to (or will) agree on everything immediately, but it does mean you need to have a productive way to reach an agreement and compromise when necessary.

Set boundaries between your work and personal life

When your business partner is a friend, the lines between social and professional life will often blur. Most of your conversations become business-related before you know it.

You should create boundaries between business and personal worlds with your business partner. It’s important to give the friendship room to grow alongside the business and that means carving out time to spend on non-business activities.

When you enter a business partnership with a friend, it’s inevitable your relationship will change. But how it changes (for better or worse) is up to you.