Business with family and friends

The old adage “never go into business with your family of friends” rings true.

I was in business for 7 years exactly (not a day less) with my brother Al running Alfresco Design, a web design and online survey company. We sold it to a consortium led by STW Group and Next Digital in 2006.

It worked out all fine – I still speak to my brother and we get on well. But going into business with family and friends can be tough.

What I found was that you really needed to separate family time and work time. This is especially true at family functions like Christmas and birthdays, as talking shop can take over your life.

I learnt over the years to do a few things to minimise any relationship issues with my brother. A main one was to sit in a different location to my brother, so on some days, I wouldn’t even see him. We had a mezzanine level that worked well for this.

And we decided pretty early on that we could debate things at a board level, but we never were to raise our voices and argue in front of staff or clients.

So what about going into business with friends? Well, to me it’s the same.

I know a number of businesses with best mates that are doing just fine in their joint business, but a tip I recently got was that their partners/wives make sure they don’t talk shop during dinner parties or events.

There is a theme here for both family and friends. A word of advice would be to draft up a contract to protect all parties if things go pear shaped in the future. Even if you are best mates at the start.

Good luck!