Things to Consider Before Involving Friends in Your Business

Things to Consider Before Involving Friends in Your Business

Hiring your friends or involving them in your business can be a mutually beneficial arrangement, but equally, there are a few things you should consider before you start mixing friendships and business.

Many of us can be grateful to our friends or family for lending us a hand at some point in running our business, whether through modeling for free to kickstart our portfolio or assisting us during a shoot. But what about involving our friends on a more professional level? It can turn into something successful for both parties, but it can also go down in flames if not pursued carefully. 

Common Goal

First and foremost, it's important to discuss whether both of you have the same goal in mind. Even if the motivation behind the collaboration differs, a common goal is crucial to ensure that both of you will stand behind your common business venture and work equally as hard to help it succeed. Not properly discussing where you want your business to head may result in clashes further down the line, because none of us are mind readers, and as such, clear communication at the very start is important.

It can be hard separating personal feelings and business sense, but taking the time to sit down and discuss your goals will allow you both to see if this is something that is viable for both of you or if you should pursue it individually and keep the business out of your friendship. 

A group shot of bridesmaids and bride.

I've had great experiences in mixing friendships and wedding business.

Commitment

Once you have established your common goal or goals, the next step is having the commitment to maintain your business idea. Unfortunately, we're all mere mortals, and as such, personal life often comes into play, from having children to sudden responsibilities, such as looking after elderly parents or others. You need to be prepared for the responsibility scales to tip eventually, because one of you are likely to encounter situations where personal life will creep in and affect your business. For example, if your friend has a different lifestyle where they are financially secure and the business is merely a side job, their priorities and commitment may alter along the way. Equally, they may expand their family, and understandably, it can take priority.

To maintain the same level of commitment requires clear communication and honesty, because the last thing you want is your friend devoting less and less energy and time into the business, but feeling uncomfortable to discuss the changing situation or feeling uneasy about wanting to leave the business altogether. 

Strictly No Business?

The issue with mixing friendship and business is that it's almost impossible to know whether it will succeed or not. We might feel that we thoroughly know our friends, but when money, business, and responsibilities come into play, it can strongly change the dynamics between the two of you and even affect your relationship if you haven't clearly defined your roles, duties, and expectations. You can always dip your toes into trying out a one-off business collaboration to see how well you can work together, and while it may not necessarily show you the exact outcome if you do work together for longer periods, it can still highlight any immediate issues. 

I have worked with friends on many different occasions with varying degrees of responsibilities, and it has mostly been an enjoyable and successful experience; however, I can also see how quickly it can turn personal and affect the relationship. Have you worked with your friends? What are your experiences? Share with us!

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5 Comments

Ivan Lantsov's picture

First and foremost, it's important to...take business class.

Jeff Jansen's picture

Want to keep your friends as friends? DO NOT HIRE THEM!!!

Rod Kestel's picture

In Hamlet, a character says 'neither a borrower nor a lender be, for the loan oft loses both itself and the friend'' (I think that's it).

Read the book, Freakonomics where it describes how doing something for money fundamentally alters a person's attitude. Think about how you've approached a task as a volunteer vs paid.

Friends for the occasional job maybe, but as a business partner? Things will always go wrong in business, creating stresses and you have to think about whether your friendship can survive that.

In order to pay for my studies, I was a bouncer at nightclubs at night and at weekends a restaurant manager. You have no idea the cock-ups in those businesses where friends, family and relatives were hired, especially at management level. Everyone was an expert, thought they could do what they want, were held unaccountable and had the right to steal, treat guests and staff like dirt and had zero understanding of cashflow, client service and business in general. Little wonder they went bust. Photography is no exception. If you need (not want) extra hands, make sure they understand your business, have the competency and PAY THEM! Don't just hire your idiot nephew because he's too stupid/ lazy to get a job himself. There's a reason why successful people keep business and family separate.

Justin Punio's picture

Same thing with family. You need to understand that involving friends will never be a standard business, the overlap and fuzzy boundary will always remain. If you accept that, then it's fine.