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15 Reasons Why You Should Not Start Businesses with Friends

15 Reasons Why You Should Not Start Businesses with Friends

In the wake of the great recession, a generation of so-called ‘accidental entrepreneurs’ emerged and revolutionized the small business environment. This has triggered a gradual evolution in the workplace, which may result in an estimated 40% of the U.S. workforce alone being self-employed by the year 2020. Alongside the age of technological advancement, the changing economic landscape has made it easier than ever for friends and family to launch business ventures with minimal experience and financial resources.

However, just because people have the resources to launch a business does not mean that they should. Despite innovation and increased accessibility, the worlds of commerce and industry remain extremely difficult to conquer. From fluctuating financial markets and unique commodities such as gold to industry competition, there are multiple factors that can undermine a fledgling business and ruin a pre-existing relationship between friends and family members.

With this in mind, here are 15 compelling reasons why you should avoid starting a business with friends and family members: –

1. Friendship Does Not Translate into Business Compatibility

When starting a business venture with a friend or beloved family member, it is tempting to believe that your existing relationship will easily translate into a successful commercial union.

This is rarely the case, however, as even people with similar values and philosophies may not share the same approach to completing various business tasks. This can create significant conflict when establishing a business model or cultivating a company culture, which in turn has the potential to undermine even the most durable of relationships.

2. Friends and Family Rarely Plan for Worst Case Scenarios

U.S. attorney Mark J. Kohler specialises in disputes which unfold between friends and family members who have unsuccessfully attempted to launch a business. His advice is therefore extremely worthwhile, and he identifies one of the key issues is a lack of communication between aspiring business partners.

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More specifically, he advises friends and family members to consider all potential worst-case scenarios in detail before making a fixed commitment, so that they can develop viable contingency plans and prepare their friendship in the event of failure.

3. It Can be Difficult to Create Clearly Defined Business roles

The majority of friendships are formed organically, which means that there are no predetermined roles or structural hierarchies. The same cannot be said for business partnerships, which are forged by choice and constructed to include individual roles and responsibilities. This almost always requires one partner to take an authoritative, leading role, which can create imbalance in an existing friendship and ultimately cause unrest.

There may be a tendency among friends and family members to avoid this entirely, but this may expose the business to a critical lack of leadership.

4. Your Business Goals May Differ from Those of Your Partner

On a similar note, your motivation for launching a business may differ to that of your friend or family member. For example, while you may aim to realize the long-term goal of launching a successful business, your partner may want nothing more than to earn some additional money to supplement their existing income. This is entirely opposed to the foundation of commercial partnerships, which should be formed from a common goal and fixed business aspirations.

Such a gap in expectations can be devastating, as it can trigger arguments, undermine business growth and compromise friendships.

5. The Price of Failure is Far Higher

According to industry statistics and successful entrepreneur Theo Paphitis, an estimated 50% of all small businesses fail during their first 24 months of trading. Such failure often comes at a considerable cost to small-business owners, although this is often restricted to financial losses.

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For those who partner with a friend or family member, however, the failure of a business venture can create a strain that even established relationships are unable to cope with. This means that the cost of failure is even higher, as it can compromise both your personal and professional lives.

6. Financial Arrangements and Friendships Make for Uneasy Bed fellows

There is an old adage which suggests that you should never lend friends or family members’ money, and the same principle can be applied to launching a business venture. This is because each partner may be required to invest some of their personal capital into funding the venture, which in turn creates a financial arrangement that binds two friends in a legal contract. The issue with this is obvious, as a single act of negligence or irresponsible behavior by one individual can impact heavily on their partner.

If you consider the financial cost of successful personal injury claims that arise as a result of carelessness, for example, it is easy to see why friends should avoid funding a joint business venture.

7. You May Struggle to Plan Holiday’s and Breaks Away

Whenever you start an independent business with a beloved family member, you are placing an incredible strain on both your personal and professional time. Booking holidays or breaks away together in the sun can be particularly difficult, as this may expose your business to a lack of leadership at a critical juncture. Unless you have a trusted employee who can hold the ford and lead strategically in your absence, you may need to stagger your holidays and take separate breaks.

8. You Will Place a Huge Strain on Your Finances

While there are many reasons that you may choose to launch a business venture with a partner, benefiting from an influx of capital is one of the most prominent.

The cost of establishing a business can be considerable, so it is natural to share this financial burden with a trusted partner who can also add experience, strength and leadership. Starting a business with an immediate family member is an entirely different entity, however, as you may be drawing capital from a more restricted source and placing a greater strain on your finances.

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9. Friends and Family Business Ventures Usually Lack Expertise

Aside from the ability to provide an initial investment, a carefully selected, independent business partner can also bring considerable expertise and experience to your venture. You may need to compromise on this when partnering with a friend or family member, however, as there is a limited share of equity and it is important to retain the incentive to succeed. By sacrificing invaluable business knowledge, you could enter the marketplace without the necessary tools to succeed.

10. Emotions Can Often Override Good Business Sense

While the national divorce rate in the UK is set to decline thanks partially to the dwindling popularity of marriage, it is still estimated that 42% of all marital unions will end in divorce. This underlines the challenges facing married couples in 2015, especially when you consider the financial pressures caused by rising property prices and stagnating earnings.

The same principle can be applied to familiar business partners who are emotionally invested in one another, as periods of hardship can damage the relationship and cause both parties to act irrationally. It is therefore easy for emotions to override sound business sense, and this can quickly sound the death knell for any commercial venture.

11. It Can be Hard to Appraise Your Partner’s Performance

While honesty should be the bedrock for any successful and meaningful friendship, it can be hard to administer a frank and withering appraisal of those closest to you.

According to Wayne Rivers, who is the President of the Family Business Institute, this can cause a significant issue when friends and family members partner in business. More specifically, it often leaves faults unaddressed and causes operational issues to continue longer than they should. While third party assessments can be sourced and paid for, the potential impact of negative criticism can still damage existing relationships.

12. Relationship Breakdowns can Divide Entire Families and Friendship Groups

While we have discussed the impact that a failed business can have on the relationship between friends and family members, it is important to consider the consequences once conflict has begun to take hold. The fall-out between two family members or close friends can trigger huge divides, and cause even the tightest-knit of groups to splinter and form rival factions. This can lead to an ongoing and acrimonious dispute that involves multiple parties, while leaving a family or friendship group in tatters.

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13. Relationships Can Suffer Even When the Business Venture Succeeds

Entrepreneur and Moz founder Rand Fishkin has some interesting opinions on the partnership of friends or family members in a business environment. He claims that while relationships are likely to suffer under the pressure of a failing business, there is also a strong possibility that they will also crumble if a venture proves to be successful. After all, the relentless pursuit of success can take its toll in a competitive market, and attainment can also change each individual’s outlook and create distance within a relationship.

14. Changing Circumstances can upset the Equilibrium of any Partnership

Over time, the market that your business operates in can change significantly. So too can your personal and financial circumstances, meaning that new challenges must be met with a flexible and suitable response. This can create significant inequity within a relationship, however, especially if one partner is suddenly forced to carry greater responsibility without reward.

If a business requires additional investment but one member of the partnership has fallen on hard times, for example, the other will need to fulfill this financial commitment without gaining any additional equity. This can cause considerable resentment and create a huge divide between once close allies.

15. The Business May Not Always be a Priority

Similarly, changing personal circumstances can alter our priorities and force us to spread our time more thinly. The advent of marriage or parenthood consumes a great deal of time, making it far harder to prioritize a business venture that has already been established with a friend or family member. Even if two partners have entered into an agreement with the same outlook and goals, these can quickly change in the face or rearranged priorities.

This situation can also occur gradually over time, leaving businesses exposed and left to decline without direct action being taken.

Featured photo credit: Paul Inckles / Flickr via flickr.com

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Published on December 13, 2018

How to Start a Company from Scratch (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Start a Company from Scratch (A Step-By-Step Guide)

If you’ve ever thought about starting and running your own business, you’re not alone. Being your own boss, having flexibility with your schedule and keeping more of the financial rewards that come with business ownership are all good reasons to own your own company.

But as you might expect, it’s not all vacations and fat bank accounts. According to the SBA, 2/3 of businesses survive at least 2 years and approximately 50% survive 5 years.[1] So why is the failure rate so high? At least for the businesses that fail early on, lack of, or poor planning can be a major factor.

So how to start a company?

Starting a business from scratch doesn’t have to be hard or complicated, but it does take planning and work. Here are the first and most important 9 steps to take when your are starting a company from scratch.

1. Do an Honest Evaluation of Yourself

Do you work better in a structured or unstructured environment? Does a daily routine reduce your anxiety? What kinds of things are you good at? Does public speaking or making presentations make you nervous? Are you good at accounting and numbers? Can you handle the rejections you’re bound to get when selling or cold calling?

These are all important questions to ask yourself, in fact it’s a good idea to get other peoples opinion about their perception of you in each of these situations.

Whatever the answers you come up with for your evaluation, remember that’s all it is, an evaluation of where you are now. Think of it as a way to identify both your areas of strength and weaknesses.

You maybe good at public speaking which can help when raising money, but bad at accounting which just means that you’ll need to find some kind of help with that area of the business.

2. Evaluate Your Idea

If your business idea involves a new product or service (or even an enhancement to an existing product or service), it needs to be evaluated. This is technically called market research.

There are firms that specialize in doing market research for new products, but if you are on a tight budget, you can do this yourself.

First, if you can build a prototype for people to use, touch and look at that’s the best option. If a prototype is not possible or it’s a service business, then offer a highly descriptive presentation of the business plan complete with it’s unique benefits and how it’s different from the competition.

Then listen! Remember that this is not about others liking your product, this is not your baby that they are talking about. You want honest market research that gives you the best chance for a successful business. Take notes, when someone tells you that they didn’t like a feature or some aspect of your idea tell them ‘Thank you”.

After several rounds of market research with different groups of people, you should see patterns emerging about things that they both liked and didn’t like. Use this information to tweak your product or service and do another round of market research.

Keep in mind that you’ll never come up with a universally loved product, your job is to produce a product or service that appeals to the broadest range of your target market.

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3. Make a Business Plan

I know, I know this isn’t the “fun” part of starting your own business, but it is an very important step in creating a successful business!

Basically, you can think of a business plan as an outline or blueprint of your business. A good business plan should have the following elements:

  • Executive Summary – This should lay out the businesses product or service and the problem that it solves for the consumer.
  • Market Evaluation – This should talk about the market you are serving. Is it an expanding market, and how does your product better fulfill the consumers in that market.
  • Market Strategies – How are you going to penetrate the market and sell your product.
  • Operational Plan – How will the company run from day to day? Who are the key employees and what are their specific rolls. Do your key players have specific goals set for them in advance?

A final word on making a business plan: while lying is never acceptable especially when you are using the business plan to raise money, it is acceptable to “put your best foot forward”.

Playing up the positives while minimizing the negatives is almost expected in a business plan.

Besides, banks as well as professional investors will both do a more in-depth analysis before investing any money into your idea.

4. Decide on a Business Structure

You have many options here, and discussing them with your accountant or financial adviser is really the only way to know what’s right for you. But just to give you a quick rundown of the types of business entities and their pros and cons we will briefly go through them:

Sole Proprietorship

This is a common way for small businesses to get started.

The pros being:

Relatively low costs to set up (usually a business license and sales tax license).Owners normally do not have to set up a special bank account, they are allowed to use their personal one. Any income earned can be offset by other losses (check with your state!). You as the sole proprietor have complete control over all decision making. 

Finally, sole proprietorship’s are relative easy to dissolve.

The cons of using a sole proprietorship include:

You as the sole proprietor can be held personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the company. Some benefits, such as health insurance premiums, are not directly deductible from business income.

If you need to raise money, you are not allowed to sell an equity stake in the company. In that same vein, hiring key people maybe more difficult because you cannot offer them an equity stake in the company.

Partnership

A partnership is formed when two or more people decide to start a business. Although there is no legal requirement for any documentation to form a partnership, it is my advice that you never enter into a partnership without having a partnership agreement. (Remember, spending $1500 now can save you $150,000 in legal fees later!).

The pros of a partnership include:

Being relatively easy and inexpensive to start. Hiring key employees can be easier as you are allowed to give equity ownership to as many partners as you want.

For tax purposes, partnerships are relative simple as any income is treated as “pass through” meaning that each partner pays tax on their individual portion of the partnerships income (As of this writing, always check with your tax adviser).

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As far as the cons go:

It can be difficult for some general partnerships to raise capitol. Because it is a partnership, the actions of one of the partners can obligate the entire organisation. All profits must be shared according to the partnership agreement regardless of the amount of work done by any single partner.

Some employee benefits may not be able to be deducted on income tax returns.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

This is a very popular business entity for small to medium sized businesses. The reason for this is the cost of set up is not prohibitive and there is a separation between the owners and the company.

The pros of an LLC include:

Limited liability for the partners, unlike sole proprietorship’s and partnerships where the owners are held responsible for all of the companies debts and liabilities, an LLC provides some protection against certain debts and liabilities that are solely the companies.

Simple taxation, just like the sole proprietorship and partnerships, income is considered “pass through” and is only taxed once on an individual level.

There is no limit on the number of shareholders in an LLC. An LLC requires fewer fillings and administrative requirements than a corporation.

Corporation

A corporation is much more complex and expensive to set up. And a corporation is legally considered an independent entity that is separate from its owners.

The pros of a corporation include:

Complete separation between the owners and the company. Because the corporation is considered its own legal entity, owners can not be held personally responsible for any debts or liabilities of the company.

A corporation can raise capital much easier just by selling more shares in the company.

Cons of corporations include:

Much higher administrative costs than any other business entity. Corporations generally have a higher tax rate. Dividends are not tax deductible for corporations. Income paid in dividends is taxed twice, once by the corporation and again by the shareholder.

Again, this is just a short summary of the pros and cons, always check with your tax adviser about what will work best in your situation.

5. Address Finances

Again, not one of the “Sexier” parts of starting your business from scratch, but very important nonetheless.

So, you’ve done your business plan and an estimate of your start up funding should be included. It should include the amount of funding you’ll need to get you through your first full year of operations.

Now, how do you get that money?

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Self Funding

If possible, self funding is the easiest. You won’t have to go to banks and investors with hat in hand, or give up ownership or control of your company. But as we know, this is not a reality for most people. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of options available.

Friends and Family

They can be a good source of funding your business if they can see and understand your vision.

Remember that business plan? Pass them out to everyone you know. Then follow up, be prepared to tell them the total amount of money you expect to raise, the minimum investment you are looking for and what you will give in return for the investment.

For example, you give a friend your business plan and follow up with him/her a few days later. You can explain that you have secured funding for $80,000 of the $100,000 you need. You are selling a 2% share in the company for every $2,000 investment. How many shares would he like?

And when he/she tells you no, thank him/her and ask if he/she can think of anyone off the top of his head who might be interested? Tell him/her you really appreciate his/her time and if he/she does come across someone who might be interested to let you know.

Banks

These guys are happy to lend you money when you don’t need it, but all of the sudden they get stingy when you actually need a loan! This is where preparation comes in.

It’s a good idea to go over your business plan with an expert and maybe even have it rewritten by an expert before you approach either a bank or professional investor. Both will want to go over your business plan with a fine tooth comb, verifying all the numbers and data you provide.

You should also brush up on everything in the plan so that you can answer any questions they have with authority.

Crowdfunding

Finally, there is crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Crowdfunding helps to build interest, community spirit, and a customer base. It’s also an efficient way to raise funds. You can take a look at these tips to find out more:

6 Crowdfunding Tips To Get Your Project 100 Percent Funded

6. Register with the Government

As stated earlier, different types of business entities have different filling and administrative requirements. At the very least, you’ll probably need a business license as well as a state sales tax license.

Unless you are forming a corporation, there are many good resources on the web that will do everything for you at a minimal cost.

7. Assemble Your Team

Remember when we evaluated your strengths and weaknesses? Here is where we fill in the gaps!

Do you hate sales and cold calling? Great! There are people who love selling and wouldn’t want to do anything else.

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Bored to death with accounting? There are a ton of small accounting firms out there that will take care of that for you.

What about marketing? You can hire someone in-house or out-source that too.

Your job is to keep on top of all the different aspects of the business to make sure they are all running smoothly and getting the results you need. If not, it’s your job to figure out the problem and implement a solution.

Check out this guide and learn how to delegate effectively:

How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

8. Buy Insurance

No matter what kind of business you start, you need insurance! Yes, I know, no one likes to buy insurance, but it can literally be the difference between having a minor inconvenience and declaring bankruptcy.

We live in a very litigious time, even a minor slip and fall at your place of business could bankrupt you without insurance. If you need help finding a good agent, check with your local trade organizations or fellow business owners.

9. Start Branding Yourself

Has anyone ever ask you for a Kleenex or a QTip? We all know what they are because of branding, Kleenex is just a brand of tissue and QTip is just a brand of cotton swab. It doesn’t have to be as widely known as Kleenex or QTip, but you can make your brand a common name within your niche.

I once owned a manufacturing company that developed a product that was so popular that my competitors started co-opting my brand name for their products.

If you aren’t sure how to kickstart branding yourself, check out these ways:

5 Ways to Build your Personal Brand & Make More Money

The Bottom Line

Starting a business from scratch can be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.

But do you know what’s even more rewarding? Having a business that succeeds, is profitable and provides a good source of income for you, your employees and their family’s.

More Resources About Entrepreneurship

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

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