When I decided to restart my business a few years ago after a brief life hiatus (remarriage, moving, family health issues –you know, the ushe), I was excited. I had just relocated to the Atlanta metro area with its booming entrepreneurial community. Business coaching had become more mainstream, particularly my style, which blends business basics with mindset and sales training, so I thought I was set.
As I got going, I soon discovered a couple of things I hadn’t foreseen. For one, even though it had only been a few years, I realized that I didn’t have the stamina I once had for the long days full of appointments, events, and other responsibilities that come with running a business. I also realized that for all the wonderful advantages and convenience that came with technology, I wasn’t as up to date with all the new capabilities it offered. I realized I needed help, and it was then that I decided to ask my friend to partner with me.
Working with friends can be just as tricky as working with family. It’s definitely not for everyone. I’d met my friend a few years back, and despite living in different parts of the country and having a significant age difference, we had managed to develop a close friendship in a relatively short amount of time. Our friendship began as a professional relationship, so bringing back the work element seemed natural, especially since she was already helping me with a couple of projects.
As we discussed formalizing our business partnership, we made sure to discuss what some of our concerns were. For me, I was worried about losing my autonomy. I was used to being a one-woman show with complete decision control. For my friend, she was concerned about the impact working together, with inescapable conflicts, would have on our friendship. Another big topic we discussed was an exit plan, the details about how we would end the partnership if it didn’t work out. It was a little uncomfortable, but also very important since we both valued our friendship, and clear communication is key to any successful partnership. We established a trial timeline that included multiple check-in points where we would review and assess how the partnership was developing.
Being able to work with my best friend is immensely rewarding. I can’t remember a time in which I laughed so much while working. It’s also great to have someone whom I trust and who gets me. I don’t have to waste time overexplaining stuff and, best of all, I’m free to just be me. She has also helped expand my musical library, but that’s a story from a different article(see June, 2019 Fayette Woman) . From a logistical standpoint, it is great to have that extra help. It helps that we have opposite strengths and work styles. I’m a morning person. She thrives in the evenings. I’m about the big picture. She is detail-oriented. It made it easy to split up tasks and divide and conquer.
That said, like any work relationship, it’s not without its challenges. What surprised and frustrated me the most was that the majority of our conflicts arose from the very things that made us a great team. Ugh. Because I practice what I preach, we rely on our PATH Elements profiles to navigate and resolve our conflicts. Our profiles accurately reflect some of the polarities of our personalities, but they also highlight the areas we have in common. Using the PATH has taught us how to understand each other’s values and how they translate to our behavioral and communication styles. This, in turn, has helped us avoid trigger words and to understand each other’s actions in instances when our emotions overwhelm us. Besides helping us understand each other, the PATH has also given us a deeper insight into our own behavior so that we can preempt some of those emotional tailspins.
Our business partnership is a work in progress, but despite the ups and downs, I’m glad we decided to give it a try. If you’re thinking about starting a business with a friend, make sure you communicate honestly and openly with each other. Have a plan, but also don’t be afraid to change that plan as the partnership develops. Most importantly, be prepared to laugh a lot.