Cool Ca­reer

When Mark Zucker­berg says it’s a good idea to buddy up when start­ing a busi­ness, we sit up and lis­ten...

Cosmopolitan (Philippines) - - News -

Wanna hit it big in busi­ness this new year? Here’s why you can (and should!) go at it with your best buds

Zucker­berg’s might be the first name that pops into your head when you think of Face­book, but he ad­mits he couldn’t have turned the so­cial me­dia plat­form into the gi­ant it is to­day had he worked alone.

Speak­ing at a con­fer­ence, he said, “Ideas typ­i­cally do not just come to you. They hap­pen be­cause you’ve been talk­ing about some­thing, or think­ing some­thing, and talk­ing to a lot of peo­ple about it, for a long time. It’s a lot of dots you need to con­nect so that you fi­nally re­al­ize you can po­ten­tially do some­thing; then you start work­ing on it and re­al­ize that maybe it will ac­tu­ally work.”

He be­lieves that when you ex­change ideas with peo­ple who share your pas­sion and fo­cus, suc­cess is sure to fol­low. And who could be more in tune than a group of friends?

buddy sys­tem

Gugu Mjadu, ex­ec­u­tive gen­eral man­ager of mar­ket­ing at South Africa’s Busi­ness Part­ners Lim­ited, shares Zucker­berg’s view. “Peo­ple who run a busi­ness to­gether must share sim­i­lar val­ues,” she says. She cites Pamela Skaist-levy and Gela Nash-tay­lor, founders of Juicy Cou­ture, as an ex­am­ple. The two were friends be­fore their small busi­ness grew to be­come a global brand. One of the rea­sons part­ner­ships such as this can be suc­cess­ful, ac­cord­ing to Mjadu, is be­cause as friends you al­ready have a good idea of each other’s strengths and weak­nesses. Also, a friend won’t be afraid to be hon­est with you if, for ex­am­ple, you’re tak­ing the busi­ness in a ques­tion­able di­rec­tion.

Hav­ing a shared value sys­tem is one of the most im­por­tant safe­guards against fail­ure, ac­cord­ing to con­sul­tant Adelle Wap­nick. “I’ve seen part­ner­ships dis­in­te­grate be­cause the lead­ers didn’t see eye to eye,” she says. In con­trast, hav­ing a sim­i­lar out­look means you will prob­a­bly re­late to cus­tomers and employees in much the same way—and so the build­ing blocks of your friend­ship can be­come the foun­da­tion of your com­pany cul­ture.

work it out

There are, how­ever, ground rules that must be put in place to en­sure your “friend­ship/busi­ness part­ner­ship” works out. First, says Mjadu, it’s vi­tal to for­mal­ize the re­la­tion­ship with a share­hold­ers’ agree­ment or agree­ment of as­so­ci­a­tion. Many friends might think that their mu­tual af­fec­tion will see them through the tough times. Not so: your re­la­tion­ship will change as the busi­ness grows, and you’d be sur­prised at the is­sues that arise. You might be an­gry about the way she han­dles the money, for ex­am­ple; she might not agree with your treat­ment of clients. Th­ese kinds of things should be ad­dressed early on, and you should set out guide­lines to help you deal with them.

While you’re do­ing this, de­cide who’s go­ing to take the lead. As friends, it’s tempt­ing to imag­ine that things will progress in the of­fice just as they do when you’re out for drinks: that both of you will be equal and con­trib­ute the same amount. But, Mjadu

Ideas Hap­pen be­cause you’ve been talk­ing about Some­thing To a lot of peo­ple for a Long Time.

points out, there’s al­ways a leader, even when the task is as sim­ple as plan­ning a bach­e­lorette party.

The per­son at the helm isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the one who has made the big­gest in­vest­ment in the com­pany; per­haps it’s the one who’s making all the tough de­ci­sions. Ei­ther way, it’s best to de­cide who’s do­ing what from the out­set. Wap­nick says you need to be care­ful that the peo­ple you part­ner with aren’t too sim­i­lar—af­ter all, it takes di­verse skills to build a busi­ness. “All com­pa­nies need dif­fer­ent kinds of in­put,” she says. So if you come up with ideas while your friend is bril­liant with num­bers, you’re on the right track. It’s not just the busi­ness that could suf­fer if your com­pe­ten­cies are too closely aligned. If one of you feels it should be her way or the high­way—a sit­u­a­tion that may oc­cur if you’re ex­perts in a sim­i­lar field—ar­gu­ments are bound to en­sue.

Feel­ing that things just aren’t amaz­ing be­tween the two of you right now? Ad­dress it be­fore it be­comes a ma­jor prob­lem, Wap­nick advises. “We’re of­ten very for­giv­ing with our friends be­cause it’s eas­ier to let an is­sue go rather than have an awk­ward con­ver­sa­tion. In busi­ness, this is the worst thing you can do. The is­sues don’t go away.”

warn­ing signs

Wap­nick says it’s im­por­tant to part­ner with a friend whom you see as an equal: if one of you is stronger than the other, you may start re­lat­ing to each other as par­ent and child rather than as col­leagues. Mjadu says it’s best to en­sure that your friend is in a stable place be­fore co-de­sign­ing your brand. It may sound cold-hearted, but you need to look at how she han­dles her per­sonal fi­nances be­fore you en­trust her with your liveli­hood.

If she’s al­ways moan­ing about her credit card debt, she might not be the best per­son to put in charge of your cash flow. “A per­sonal cri­sis can take away from your friend’s abil­ity to fo­cus on grow­ing the busi­ness,” Mjadu says. Of course, you can’t turn away from a friend in need. The best way to han­dle sit­u­a­tions such as this, says Mjadu, is to agree to keep your busi­ness sep­a­rate from your friend­ship. “You need to keep fo­cused at work,” she says. “Re­mind each other that you’ve seen an op­por­tu­nity and cre­ated your start-up to take ad­van­tage of it, not as a plat­form to sort out each other’s prob­lems.”

She sug­gests set­ting up clear bound­aries so that your pro­fes­sional and pri­vate lives are worlds apart. Wap­nick agrees—be­cause if you don’t agree to stop talk­ing shop once you’ve left the of­fice, it’s easy for your con­ver­sa­tions to cen­ter on work, and that’s the quick­est way for a close friend to be­come noth­ing more than a col­league. “Go into the ven­ture know­ing that your friend­ship is more im­por­tant than the busi­ness,” she says.

pros and Cons

For Jane Rankin, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Bran­son Cen­tre for En­trepreneur­ship, the po­ten­tial for a busi­ness part­ner­ship to ruin a friend­ship is the chief rea­son she feels friends and col­leagues should re­main sep­a­rate— but, she says, it’s not the only one. “En­trepreneurs of­ten make the mis­take of go­ing into part­ner­ship with some­one who sup­ports them and who they like, rather than some­one who has real ex­per­tise,” she says. She also warns it’s dif­fi­cult to be ob­jec­tive about some­one you care for.

How­ever, Rankin says one of the pri­mary rea­sons start-ups fail is be­cause an en­tre­pre­neur has tried to go it alone. It’s im­por­tant to sur­round your­self with a team—but more than that, it must be the right team. Rankin’s sug­ges­tion is to be hum­ble enough to bring on board peo­ple who are smarter and bet­ter at their job than you are, then make sure you’re all work­ing to­wards the same ob­jec­tive.

One way to make sure ev­ery­one’s eye­ing the same prize is to de­cide on your strate­gic ap­proach up­front. It’s more ef­fec­tive to look to the long term, iden­ti­fy­ing po­ten­tial prob­lems and how the busi­ness may evolve as it grows, and to struc­ture it ac­cord­ingly. Things to con­sider in­clude feed­back you re­ceive from clients and keep­ing an eye on what your com­peti­tors are up to.

There’s no doubt more and more peo­ple will turn to en­trepreneur­ship. If you’re one of them, your team will be one of your great­est as­sets—and if your bestie can be a part of that team, wouldn’t that be awesome?

big MIS­TAKE: part­ner­ing with some­one you like rather THAN some­one with real ex­per­tise.

Friends for­ever... even in busi­ness?

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