Read This Before Starting A Business With Your Family or Friends

Read this before starting a business with your family or friends

If you are anything like me, your brain flows with all sorts of business ideas. Some of them good. Many of them bad, but plenty of entrepreneurial thoughts for sure. You may even have considered taking one of those ideas to begin a venture with a family member or friend. Well if you have…Girl!!!! (Or guy) Read this post before starting a business with your family or friends. 

Before I dig in, I must disclose that I am currently in a business with my spouse and have been since 2011. So, I am writing this post with actual experience and some expertise on the matter. With that being said, no, I am not claiming to be the voice for each person’s perspective. Yes, I do think I will be able to shed some light on the topic of mixing business relations with personal ones.

While listening to my favorite podcast, The Joe Budden Podcast, creating this post came to me. If you are familiar with the JBP, or Joe Budden, you may be aware of the recent tension playing out on social media amongst the co-hosts on the show. Before you think this is simply a critique of their podcast, trust me it is not. 

However, episode 435, the episode which brought back the estranged co-hosts, Rory & Mal, some important business gems were exposed for me. Of course, I have no actual insight on their contracts or issues besides what was shared and this post is not really about that anyway. 

What this post is about, is what to consider before going into business with your family members or friends. You may be thinking, “what could possibly be bad about working with those who know you best?” I would agree with you that in theory, working with whom you know and whom knows you personally can be a great thing.

If we are keeping it one hundred, we know that problems do not discriminate in business. When problems in your business result in blurry lines between your personal relations and business ones, there may trouble afoot. 

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Read this before starting a business with your family or friends
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“Good, open communication is the start to getting you out of trouble with your family or friend who is also your business associate, it is the same ingredient for prevention.”

So what are you to do when your business relationship has jeopardized your personal one? In a perfect world, you would have read this post to avoid this scenario all together. If you weren’t fortunate to derail your ball of confusion, then all roads to resolving conflict start with good and open communication. If you are in the thick of it, you may want to rely on a mediator to help you through, but this post is to help you avoid that type of stress.

Although, good, open communication is the start to getting you out of trouble with your family or friend who is also your business associate, it is the same ingredient for prevention. While listening to episode 435 of the JBP, Mal repeated one word as he was explaining why he left the show six weeks prior. In fact, Mal said the word so many times that I envisioned having to take a shot each time he said it and then imagined being rushed to the Emergency Room to have my stomach pumped from all the alcohol. The word on repeat was R-E-S-P-E-C-T! That’s right, respect! Mal felt so disrespected, I can’t tell you how many times he spewed the word. What I can say is that If the Queen Aretha was still amongst the breathing, she would have sent Mal a cease and desist. Get my drift?

Back to Mal’s major issue between Joe Budden and himself, his perceived lack of respect. Again, I am only using the tension on the JBP to make my point, not to do a deep dive on their show. According to the discussion had between all of the co-hosts during episode 435, it was evident to me that they each had different definitions for what respect looked like to each of them. This is not a unique situation. Most people have their own definitions for words such as respect, love, trust, etc. Or in other words, people set their own standards for what respect, etc. looks like.

All in the Family

When you are family or friends, there may be more assumptions made based on your personal feelings. Now throw a business relationship on top of that. Not to mention, family businesses are notoriously guilty for cutting corners in creating a good organizational foundations because they often feel they are unnecessary because of the personal relationships. This is a mistake.

It is not uncommon in a personal relationship to look at how you treat someone and expect similar in return. This is where we as humans go wrong and where I agreed with Joe. No one owes anyone anything. With one caveat, of course, open communication. When Mal did not get what he felt he deserved from Joe during their dispute, he identified Joe’s actions as disrespect. Joe saw it differently. So how do you decide who is right when two people have two ideals of what respect looks like? You don’t. Instead, you get into your time machine and create shared values for your business.

Shared values are best described as how business associates relate to one another while operating in the workspace. For example, it seemed like the JBP lacked a conflict resolution plan and did not have formal shared values based on how two co-hosts left (one being asked to take a few pods off and the other leaving on his own accord) and returning after six weeks. Granted implementing organizational management is not that sexy when operating in creative spaces, but are very much needed. 

Read this before starting a business with your family or friends-2

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Set Yourself Up For Success

If I haven’t put you off on the idea of beginning a business with a family member or friend, keep reading. To set your interpersonal venture off on the right footing, begin with creating some shared workplace values. As well as creating an internal conflict management strategy.

These may sound more difficult than they are, but they are not. All it takes is some open communication with or without a third party. If you and your partners agree on what respect is, then go at it, if you don’t, then you may want to bring in a mediator or even reconsider if the business is even a good idea. Take a look at the following steps to help you get started:

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Be clear

Make sure you have your business roles and responsibilities clear. Do this by establishing a business/partnership agreement or contract. A business organizational chart and roles and responsibility descriptions.


create shared values

Create workplace shared values.  Use your business’s mission and vision statements as a starting point for what your shared values will be. If you do not have a mission or vision statement, it is a great idea to create one first.


decide how to resolve conflict

Create an internal conflict resolution strategy. How will you handle conflict when it arises? I say when instead of if, because conflict is certain to come up while operating a business. Especially while operating a business with your family or friends over a period of time.


create boundaries

Create boundaries. Set-up timeframes to discuss both personal and business matters and encourage all stakeholders to stick to what’s created. 


define emergencies

Establish what emergency situations can override the boundaries. Be very specific on what these are. For example, if a problem comes up that requires all stakeholder’s immediate input, then tag this an emergency.


what does good communication look like?

Determine what good communication looks like amongst the business associates and create multiple opportunities to clear the air before any trouble. For example, a regular team meeting. 

Now that you’ve made it to the end, are you ready to take the plunge? Don’t get me wrong, working with your family or friends is challenging. But, if you follow the tips in this post, building a business with those close to you can be extremely rewarding. Whatever you decide to do, don’t discount your intuition. Good luck in your future endeavors! Thanks for reading through to the end.


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