Why You Shouldn’t Start a Business With a Buddy

by Sean Bryant on November 14, 2012

Are you thinking about starting a business with a buddy? Are you excited about working with a friend on a new project?

Well I have bad news for you. Sorry. Starting a business with a buddy is a horrible idea. This is what I wanted to write about today because it’s a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately.

I wanted to start off by telling a quick story about running a business or working on projects with friends…

My original plan for Studenomics was a financial planning company with a buddy. Two of us knew that we wanted to do something with money. We just weren’t sure on how to approach things. We would meet up to discuss ideas. We made random notes and arbitrary plans. We would be motivated about making money, yet we took no real action.

Then things got ugly. Eventually you have to take action. This is where problems will always arise because one person will work harder than the other. This gets awkward because the minute you try to boss a friend around or a problem arises, your friendship takes a turn for the worse. Friends are fun when it comes to complaining about work or having a laugh. Not trying to start a business together.

Safe to say, I’ve never attempted to work with a friend since then (mid-2008).

There’s a reason that we make new friends in school and at work. That common goal brings us together. An interest in the same topic at school or same career path brings us closer.  Your lifelong friends are usually still close with you because you guys have been through so much together. I have literally zero common interests with some of my oldest friends. We’ve just kept in touch.

When you want to start an online business or perform a service, you’re just way better off going in on your own because you have nothing stopping you. Why wait for someone else or hope that another person will carry their own weight?

Have you thought about starting a business? I suggest that you try doing it on your own. If you can’t do it on your own, below are a few suggestions that trump starting a business with a friend:

  • Hire help as you need it. You can hire the help when the time comes for it. This is much easier than waiting around for someone to submit their portion of the work.
  • Work with associates. You can work with someone from your extended network or list of friends on Facebook. You don’t have to work with your best friend.
  • Outsource. I strongly believe in outsourcing work whenever possible especially when your business needs manufacturing of a certain product (only trust reliable manufacturing company like Asianprosource.com). I use fiverr.com. when I need something quick done. This is quick and easy. If things don’t work out, you’re only down $5.

That’s why you shouldn’t start your next business with a friend. This however doesn’t mean that you have to live in isolation.

What can you do with your friends? What if you still want to work with your buddies?

  1. Battle debt together. If your student credit cards got you into debt, you can get your friends to hold you accountable while you tackle your debt. It’s always fun to have someone there to help you when you’re feeling down or need some extra motivation.
  2. Workout together. Working out is best done with someone else. Having a workout buddy will force you to train harder and push yourself more.

Friends are amazing when it comes to keeping yourself accountable and pushing yourself to the max. Just please don’t try to start a business with a buddy. It won’t work. Your friendship is worth more than any business.

This articl was contributed by Martin of Studenomics, and now Start Freelancing Now. Martin recently wrote about how you can still freelance when you have no time.

Have you ever gone into business with a friend?  Did it work out? 

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Sean Bryant

Sean Bryant created OneSmartDollar.com in 2011 to help pass along his knowledge of finance and economics to others. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in economics he worked as a construction superintendent before jumping into the world of finance. Sean has worked on the trade desk for a commodities brokerage firm, he was a project manager for an investment research company and was a CDO analyst at a big bank. That being said he brings a good understanding of the finance field to the One Smart Dollar community. When not working Sean and his wife are avid world travelers. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and dog Charlie.

Latest posts by Sean Bryant (see all)

  • Basically, anyone who thinks they should start a company with a friend should just watch The Social Network. Then again, everyone did get paid out afterwards, but those friendships did not last.

    • Haha I think Facebook is a rare example. I might be willing to lose a casual college buddy for millions of dollars. Just saying…

  • I know better than to go into business with a friend. Sounds like a nightmare to me. It might work out but I’d rather not lose the friendship.

    • That’s right Lance. What’s that old quote? It goes something like: you want to lose a friend? Loan them a dollar. This is a similar situation. When money is involved, things get weird.

  • I started a business with a friend from college and he was also my roommate at the time. Working and living together was not ideal but we had a great relationship and still have although we are not in business together anymore. We set up every worst case scenario from day one to avoid going emotional if things went sour. I wouldn’t recommend it either, even if I keep a good memory of it.

    • That’s pretty rare Pauline. Happy to hear it worked out. Just curious, was it two females working together? Maybe dudes are different?

  • Wow, I can so relate to this. I started a business with my best friend and we disagreed about everything. We didn’t get into huge fights or anything but the idea of having to tell your best friend what’s right and what isn’t … then telling them to do something in a different way is just terrible. You’re so right – DON’T DO IT!

  • I started a business with a friend that turned ugly, but I am glad that we did it.

    Because I learned what not to do. Every venture I have entered into since has worked out pretty well because I spend a fair bit of time negotiating a contract prior to starting which details exactly what is expected of each participant.

    I have actually found that using this approach has worked very well in my favor and that I want to try and do as many joint ventures as possible (with the right people obviously).

  • I agree 100%. I have a friend who I pursued businesses with many times, but it always ended up failing for the reasons you cited. I also feel like half the time you have to be explaining to each other your vision or what you think this part of the web page would look like, etc. Going on your own is better since you have full ownership and are only accountable to yourself, plus you reap all the benefits. It just doesn’t work to start one with a friend.

  • Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    I’ve heard about this a lot but I’ve never tried it. I think I would avoid it at all costs and if I were to ever set up a deal with a friend, I’d make sure it was clear who the boss or owner was. I think true 50-50 partnerships are nearly impossible to maintain unless you have the PERFECT partner.

  • No, I was working with a man. We have a very raw relationship, where we don’t keep anything (happiness or resentment) to ourselves and are usually able to forgive each other’s mistakes quickly. I don’t have many friendships that are as open and tolerant, and can’t think of many other friends I would have gone in business with.

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