Katheryn Rivas writes for online universities. Today, she appeases our audience with a guest post about working with friends in your startup.
Start-up companies, as we all know, represent a profound change in the way that businesses can be successfully modeled. One of the most distinguishing features of start-ups is that, thanks to the technology that powers many of these up-and-coming businesses, initial costs are low such that "anyone" can begin a start-up. And many who get into the start-up business are young, tech-savvy, and a have a few friends, most likely college buddies, with whom they want to work on "the next big thing". If the movie The Social Network is anything to go by, the most important aspect in getting your start-up off the ground is building a small team that you can trust. Here are a few tips and considerations:
1. Working with your friends has its advantages and disadvantages.
While you may be enthralled at the prospect of collaborating with your buddies, know from the very beginning that there are ups and downs in working with you people you know well. The idea-generating process will probably be easier, but at the same time, your level of comfort could make the inevitable arguments you will confront liable to pettiness.
2. Maintaining professionalism is extremely important.
Of course, one of the best parts about working with friends is that you will feel comfortable enough to joke around, make fun of each other, even fight, and things will turn out okay most of the time. However, when there's money involved, arguments can become serious, threatening to completely destroy what you've worked so hard on. So as casual as you are with your team, do set boundaries, specific meeting times, and all the other trappings of professionalism. Find friends who understand the need for professionalism in any company that hopes to "make it big."
3. Be open to drawing talent from an "outsider," but ensure that he or she will be treated equally.
4. Before even beginning to work on your start-up, address every point of contention you can feasibly see happening down the road and address it, in paper. Don't let important things go unsaid.
There are some aspects of running any business that seem somewhat awkward discussing with friends. Things like profit-sharing, intellectual property, deciding who makes decisions like hiring, etc., are all items that need to be covered. It's better to feel a little awkward initially than wait until there is a problem when everyone complains that they misunderstood, didn’t know, and so on.
These are just a few things to think about when working with friends. For more information, check out this Stanford video lecture on the topic, given by Box.net CEO and Co-Founder Aaron Levie.