Recently it seems like the entrepreneurial spirit has gone mainstream. Everyone and their mother has an idea for a business they can start, and they look forward to the days of giving their old boss the finger as they forge on towards a brighter future!
Of course, going into business alone is scary. There are so many questions, so many unknowns! Quickly, the question becomes: should you go into business with a friend? Certainly, from the outside, it seems like a less risky proposition than going it alone.
But it’s not always that simple.
Recently, a friend asked me for my advice. “I have a friend I want to go into business with,” he said. “He’s great at attracting customers, and I do the training. But I feel like we need someone with a business background to help us out. His wife is an accountant, and he wants to get her involved, but I feel uncomfortable with that, because, well, she and I don’t necessarily get along. I just think it’s going to cause problems down the line.”
First rule of going into business? Listen to your gut. If you feel uncomfortable about an idea, a partner, a product, or anything at all, you have to speak up, and then act on it.
Plus, in my friend’s situation, why split the money three ways? He and his buddy can own the business as equal partners, and then they can pay someone for their expertise when it is needed.
I’ve been in business for myself — and working pretty much solo — for the better part of eight years now, so I think I can speak plainly on what it’s like to be a solo voyager in the world of entrepreneurship. I have to say, working alone is amazing… but it can also be terrible. It is the best of times, and the worst of times. There’s not always someone to commiserate with when times are tough, or anyone to pop a bottle with when you land that big client, or get that great gig.
And make no mistake, I love working for myself. But the truth is that until Shauna, Kat and I got together to form The Blogcademy in 2012, I never knew just how powerful we would be as a group. All three of us are extremely hard-working, determined and goal-oriented, and when you put us together, it’s electric. Wham! Bam! You can’t even imagine how much we get done, especially when we’re all together in the same physical location.
When you work with other people, their successes become your successes, and vice versa. When Kat gets a great piece of press, or Shauna signs an incredible client, my excitement for them is tripled, because that doesn’t just help them, it helps me, and our business as a whole. Because of this, the amount of love, support, and enthusiasm we have for one another is astronomical. We are definitely each other’s biggest cheerleaders.
You might see your peers online and on Instagram make running a business seem like one big party, but that’s just their highlight reel, not the reality! Here are four things to consider before going into business with someone else.
A business relationship is like a marriage
Working with someone else is not a casual commitment. It is like having a wedding, moving in together, and figuring out how to deal with one another’s quirks all at once. 95% of the time, I feel like Shauna and Kat are my wives. We are in constant contact, sending between 20 and 100 emails every day.
It’s not just about learning how to work together. Before you get started, you need to figure out whether you’re compatible! Do you share similar values? Does everyone involved have good integrity? How comfortable are you when it comes to spending money to get to a certain level (aka, is one of you a bit cheap)? What are your expectations and goals? Do you have the ability to make an initial investment, and will everyone make the same contribution? And don’t forget about trust. If I had any doubts about whether I could trust my Blogcademy babes, there isn’t a chance in hell we would be working together.
If you disagree about little things in the beginning, believe me when I say they will balloon into much bigger problems later. Make sure you are all on the same page before anyone buys a URL or an office chair!
Talent does not always equal business acumen
Be honest with yourself, and ask yourself — and your potential partners — whether you have the skills to turn your interest into a business. You might be able to cook a meal, but that doesn’t mean you can run a restaurant. They are totally different skills.
Starting a business, seeing it through its teething problems, and moving forward to profitability is immensely challenging, requiring plenty of know-how, initiative, and problem-solving ability. You have to be quick on your feet, and thrilled to take responsibility for whatever happens, good or bad.
Sounds scary, I know, and it can be. But ultimately, you’ll never know unless you try. You can read all the books and take all the classes, but until you actually give it a shot, you’ll have no idea whether it’s right for you or not.
Clearly define everyone’s roles
One of the reasons The Blogcademy works is because each of us have clearly defined and designated tasks. Kat does email and admin, I do copywriting, researching of venues and plane tickets, and Shauna does all our graphic design. It succeeds because we each enjoy our portion of the tasks, and more to the point, we’re doing what we’re good at! Running spreadsheets is Shauna’s idea of hell, and if I was in charge of graphic design, everything would be eye-gouging pink.
When it comes to business, you have to actually utilise people’s talents. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Even though we know our areas of expertise, we each have the attitude of pitching in wherever it’s needed. None of us have ever said, “That’s not my job”. We know that sometimes, things have to be done, even when we’d prefer to be napping/eating/lying on a beach somewhere. And we get on with it, because we’re a team, and we help one another.
Can you see it through?
How committed are you? No business is glamorous all the time, and especially not at the beginning. Sure, most of us start businesses with the intention of living like Liberace, but it will take you years to get to that point.
Do you have the tenacity to stick with it? How about your co-founders? Are you all in it to win it, or do you just like the dream of the glitz and the glory?
There are no free rides. You have to put everything into it, or you’ll never get off the ground.
Is it a lot of work? Yes, of course! But I firmly believe it’s worth it.
Photographs by Shell De Mar.