Business Model

When your work partner is your best friend

Written by Leher Kala | Published: April 2, 2012 3:40 am

When your work partner is your best friend

News is that Bollywood’s first ladies,Gauri Khan and Susanne Roshan,are no longer just besties but also partners in an interior and furnishings business. Roshan’s Tweets suggest she’s passionate about architecture and design and we’ve already seen Khan in the D’Decor ads. Besides common interests,Khan and Roshan clearly have similar lifestyles considering their superstar husbands,and it’s wholly possible that a business founded on shared values and an enduring friendship should be a resounding success.

Some of the world’s most creative ideas and successful businesses have been collaborations between friends. Among the many things that distinguished literature as far back as the 19th century was the quality of the friendships that produced it. Poets Wordsworth and Coleridge,though rivals,were known to be inseparable and produced their most important works in company. More recently,Hewlett-Packard is an example,and the online file sharing site was founded by Aaron Levie with his friends from the high school. There’s the wonderful film Good Will Hunting,scripted by Ben Affleck and childhood buddy,fellow actor Matt Damon. There don’t seem to be any statistics on how many people start businesses with friends,but it’s probably the most popular way to make the transition from employee to entrepreneur. The very nature of entrepreneurship (when you have a great idea but no money or confidence) is to discuss it with a trusted friend whose opinion can be counted on. If you’re lucky,he might even give you the validation you need by wanting to be a part of it. Also,when you work with friends,it’s bound to be more fun since you’re hanging out with a pal. So why risk doing it alone?

Business partnerships,overall,are tricky to maintain,irrespective of if there’s a friendship or not. Personally,I’m of the opinion that if a particular friendship is precious in your life,don’t test it by putting it under the strain and rigour of a business. No matter how good the understanding may be,many people walk into a venture without fully understanding the dedication and time required to get it off the ground. When you’re friends,you can fight and end up closer than ever before but conflicts involving money are not as easy to sort out. Once you start a venture with a friend,the dynamics have altered irrevocably and then it’s impossible to go back to what it used to be. Inevitably,at some stage,one partner ends up thinking he’s doing all the work. Partnerships are like marriages; there will be some occasional shouting and violent disagreements. But there’s also a serious likelihood that if the business fails,so will the friendship.

In Delhi,starting a business or investing with friends seems to be the norm. I know people who buy property with their friends so that they have control over who their neighbours are going to be. In Goa,an entire street in a quaint little village called Assagaon has been bought by a Delhi gang of extended friends who also holiday together and work together. There are people though,who manage to have their businesses and friendships co-exist happily. Two of my friends from school started an event management firm right out of the college. Besides a few rocky patches,they have mostly flourished and got along. Over the years,they’ve established some interesting,if slightly bizarre,ground rules. They make joint purchases of exactly the same things: they drive the same car,own the same iPad and apartment. If one can’t afford it,the other doesn’t buy it. Their logic is to keep any hint of resentment at bay. They also have specific areas and responsibility; they make a conscious effort to settle differences of opinion immediately and while they talk every day regarding work,they’re not in each other’s presence more than they need to be. It’s important to remember that it’s much easier to get along when the going is good. Individuality can be a lonely business but if your business bombs,at least you will still have the friend’s shoulder to cry on.

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