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Summary:

Web video maven Justin Kownacki recently mulled over an important issue in his blog: is it a good idea to get your friends involved in your business? He came up with a whole list of potential pitfalls: Friends may not do what you need them to […]

Web video maven Justin Kownacki recently mulled over an important issue in his blog: is it a good idea to get your friends involved in your business? He came up with a whole list of potential pitfalls:

Friends may not do what you need them to do.
Friends may not know what they CAN do, so they overinflate their value.
Friends may take liberties that strangers wouldn’t.
Friends may not work as hard as strangers.
Friends may not listen.

Despite these potential drawbacks, Kownacki offers some advice based on his own successful collaboration with friends, including knowing when the bend and keeping the communications channels open. And he points out the benefits to having friends as co-workers, not least of which is having a sympathetic ear handy when things get tough (as they do all too often in this crazy web worker economy of ours).


Given the amount of recruiting that goes on in coffeehouses and chatrooms these days, it’s almost impossible to avoid working with friends. But just because you’re basking in the glow of shared hopes now doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan for an uncertain future. If you’d like some more practical advice, consider these tips as a starting point:

Think it through. Ask yourself the simple question: would you want to work with this person if they weren’t already your friend? If they don’t have the right skills for the job, then this isn’t a good idea, no matter what fun you have together at the bowling alley or the beach.

Put it in writing. Sure, everyone is happy and great buddies now. But money really does change everything, whether it’s the riches of success or the ugly repercussions of bankruptcy. If your friendship won’t withstand a trip to the lawyer to figure out how to formalize your partnership, maybe this isn’t such a good idea in the first place.

Leave some breathing room. Just how close are you? Will a friendship that’s been good for a few hours a week in bars handle forty or fifty hours a week crunching on code or design comps? Even married couples need some time apart. Think about how much time you really want to spend together. Web workers may have an advantage here in that we tend to build our work weeks out of a number of shifting alliances in the first place.

Sleep on it. Business is risky. I’ve seen several friendships ruined forever by business risks that turned out wrong. If you’re not willing to lose the friend, don’t go into business with them. You might be the lucky one, but the only sure way to win that game is not to play.

Have you gone into business with friends? Did it work out? Or do you have some juicy horror stories to share with your web-working peers? Here’s your chance to spill the beans!

  1. I’ve been in business with a friend of mine for well over a year now and it has worked great. It really just comes down to communication. As long as everybody knows where each other stands, you really can avoid most major issues.

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  2. A maxim that protected me all along…

    There are no friends in business and there is no business among friends.

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  3. I would agree with Josh above. Me and my roommate has a great working relationship because we know how to communicate well and also we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I guess having someone who live right next door (ex: roommate) would help a lot since you know the other person’s habits and character pretty well.

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  4. Remember, friends is more likely to sue you if it all falls apart

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  5. 7 months ago I started a company with a friend from another country and we are sharing a flat so we hang out more or less 24/7. It’s a bit like going to college and having a roommate that studies the same as you – work and play merge.
    Of course we have to grow up at some point but right now we are having fun – and making money.

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  6. Do go into business with friends, overall this has been the best decision I’ve made carrer-wise. I’ve worked with friends for nearly a year now. But there is one important thing to remember:

    When it deals with things of value: contracts, IP, products, anything at all, forget they are your friends. Friends assume their friends are working in each other’s best interests. The problem is, it is very difficult to know someone’s intentions in all matters. By the time something becomes valuable, each person in a group of friends probably has a slightly to wildly different very of the end game. Arguments ensure, friendship cool, or at worst, lawyers come out. Also, sometimes, people just get greedy, even your friends. This is experience speaking, and it was ugly.

    Write agreements, build spreadsheets, document all aspects of your business. This isn’t fun, but it is vital. The more you work to document what you are doing, and who owns how much of it, the less chance you have of a catastrophic misunderstanding later.

    Get a lawyer, spend a little time on important documents like your operating agreement. Make sure everyone has time to think, generate questions, and have them answered.

    Going into business for yourself is tricky, and working with your friends is both a risk and an asset. Get everyone to agree that maintaining your friendship is as important as the success of your business. The unfriendly agreements upfront allow you to have fun getting the real work of your business done. And this second time around for me has been great fun.

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  7. [...] Quarta-feira, Março 14th, 2007 in Filosofias Titulo cretino para expor algo que eu já pensei e, em um momento ou em outro, todas as pessoas que já passaram por uma faculdade de comunicação já passaram: Ter a vontade de abrir uma empresa com os amigos. Então achei um post sobre isso no Web Worker Daily (Do you dare to work with friends/). [...]

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  8. I actually know exactly what you are saying in this post. I have recently gone into work with a couple of friends and I can truly say that some of the above mentioned pitfalls are occurring now. I wish I had had this before I started as I may have made a different decision.

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  9. If I said it once, I said it hundred times to my dear friend who continues to make the same mistake – “don’t go into business with family or friends unless.” Twice she hired family, twice she created rifts when she had to let them go because they took advantage of her generosity, came late to work, called in sick constantly, and were basically bad employees. Once she went into business with a friend who left her holding the bag doing all the work to get the business started. She finally took my advice and dissolved the business. Why split profits if you’re going to do all the work anyway?

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