Lean On Me: Friends in Business on International Friendship Day
July 30 is International Friendship Day. It’s a day to acknowledge and celebrate all of your friendships. So, say hello to long-lost friends and let your besties know that their friendship ‘is a noble and valuable sentiment’ in your life, as the United Nations suggests. Get a group together for some coffee, a chat, and celebrate your friendships.
In the business world, there are countless companies that were started by friends, and why not? The world of business isn’t about spreadsheets, it’s about people – as every small business owner knows well – and starting a company with people you know best can give you a competitive edge.
You know your friend inside-out and can cover for their weaknesses, and vice versa. You can inspire each other, and your solid personal relationship means that you can be honest and give candid feedback. This type of unwavering support and honest feedback can be hard to find in business.
On Friendship Day 2016, we offer some examples of best friends creating the best of businesses, and also some advice on how you might start a business with your own friends.
Businesses Started by Friends
Apple: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak met in 1970 and started Apple in 1976. Despite some boardroom reshuffles, the two friends are synonymous with the early growth of this now goliath company.
Google: Sergey Brin and Larry Page met in 1995 while PhD students at Stanford University. They started a search engine called BackRub. You now know this as Google, which became a registered company in 1998 following a $100,000 investment from Sun Microsystems.
Microsoft: Bill Gates and Paul Allen started their business in 1975 after having been childhood friends. Micro-Soft (soon Microsoft) would develop operating systems, office suites, and communication software some of which is probably installed on your computer right now.
Ben and Jerry’s: Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield met in a gym class at school in 1963. In 1978 they launched Ben and Jerry’s after taking a $5 correspondence class in ice cream making. This shared learning experience paid off: the business was acquired by Unilever in 2000 for a not insubstantial $326 million.
Starbucks: The coffee giant is very different today than it was in 1971 when it was started by three friends in Seattle. Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel, and Gordon Bowker opened a gourmet coffee shop in Pike Place that served customers for years before the business expanded exponentially in the 1990s.
Harley Davidson: The iconic motorcycle brand was started in 1901 by childhood friends William Harley and Arthur Davidson. An early plan for a moped-style bicycle didn’t materialise, but a motorcycle company was started instead in 1903. Motorcycle enthusiasts and middle-aged men have been fans ever since.
Each of these globally recognisable brands was built by friends. On today of all days, have a look at your Facebook feed and think whether one of those cat-meme posting, selfie-sharing goofballs might be the business partner that inspires you – and you them - to create something
Practical advice when starting a business with friends:
- Lots of Trust – keep being friends!
Your business benefits when your friendship is strong, so don’t let business get in the way of having fun together. If your friendship breaks down, then your business will suffer.
- Clear Roles – Who is in charge of what?
Even though you get on well, your business will run best when there are well defined areas of responsibility. Make sure you and your friend know who does what.
- Business Decisions – Your business’s needs are more important than diplomacy.
No-one likes to argue, but you have to do what is best for your business rather than seek immediate compromise. Let your business data inform debates, rather than letting tempers flare.
- More Perspectives – Find people who will disagree with you both.
Just because there are co-founders doesn’t mean you can pull up the drawbridge and ignore all others. The more ideas and perspectives in a business, the better it can handle future. Basically, keep making new friends!
- Divide responsibilities – This is the tip of advice from Robin Knox, intelligentpos co-founder:
"It helps to clearly divide responsibilities between founders who are friends, you should know how you fit in and who is responsible for delivering what. Draw up a partnership agreement from this, you don’t necessarily need a lawyer, though it wouldn’t be a bad idea! Just write out the rules and terms you plan to engage under, covering all of the various angles like you would in an employment contract. This is your promise to your co-founder and reference for when you disagree on something. Finally, it helps to introduce a third party who can mediate and post the casting vote if you can't agree on something, this is ideally someone impartial, like a business mentor. Other than that, work hard, enjoy the candid feedback, have fun and create something incredible."
Supercharge Your Business by Building On Your Friendship
Friends can strengthen your business but, if the situation isn’t managed properly, they might weaken it, too. So be crystal clear with each other on how the business will run before you get started.
Make sure that you use your friendship to enhance your business with trust, honesty, and unwavering support. Because that’s what friends do.
From your friends at Intelligent Point of Sale, Happy Friendship Day!