Should You Go Into Business With Your Best Friend?

Never mix business with friendship, they said. Wrong says Jessica.

Someone apparently once said that friendship and business should not be mixed. I would like to meet that person and show them that they didn’t know what they were talking about!

When Nancy and I met in the school playground 30 years ago, you could never have imagined that we’d now be navigating the start-up world. Starting a business with anyone – LinkedIn acquaintance, industry expert, friend or family – is a big decision and not to be taken lightly. But I honestly believe that working alongside your best friend brings huge benefits to you and the work you produce.

So if you’re thinking about taking the plunge with a friend, then read on.

Whatever job you do, you need to love it!
This is so true – yet it just wasn’t the case for me back in 2018. I had a successful career in marketing but I was craving something different. I just didn’t know what. All became clear when Nancy and I met up for coffee one day in 2018 and the seeds of ElWell were sown. Catching up as friends do, we were talking about how to help an elderly relative stay independent. We realised there was limited support out there to help families achieve this, so we decided to do something about it! Instantly we were excited by the prospect of starting a company with purpose and that level of excitement hasn’t dimmed. We’ve been able to make it what it is. It’s our joint vision and we’ve created it to fit with our lifestyle. Meaning that I now have a job I love.

If you don’t trust your best friend, who do you trust?
We look out for and trust each other firstly as friends and then as business owners. That level of commitment to each other means that we know we have each other’s backs. It allows us to throw any idea on the table knowing we won’t be judged, we fit kids and life around work and ultimately help each other.

We knew from the beginning what skills each other has
And I’m not just talking about we learned in our business studies A Level (years ago!). Like with any company, you need to make sure people have different attributes. Knowing each other well meant that we could easily work out who was best suited to manage specific areas of the business (and create them around these skills too). While Nancy uses her background in physiotherapy to manage the client side of our business (at-home services offering physiotherapy, home adaptations and more), I took the reins with our website, creating content that matters to the sandwich generation and spreading the word on social media. Having expertise in totally different but useful areas means we really complement each other as a partnership.

We knew it had to be each other – we couldn’t just work with any friend
This is so important. Just because you’re friends it doesn’t mean it will translate well for business. For some reason, we used to say that if we were to work with anyone, it would be each other (luckily!). From knowing we could have difficult conversations if we had to, to being able to stand talking to each other day-in, day-out, we knew we were on to a winner. It hasn’t been difficult to balance the friendship with business. Just like you would with a ‘work friend’, we can easily transition from having a cheery chat to talking finance.

Friends first, but we’re business minded
We know how lucky we are to work together but we also didn’t go into this blind. Just as you might get a pre-nup before you get married, we made sure we had agreements in place from the start in case one of us wanted to move on. It’s worth spending some time thinking about the agreement between you and getting your cards on the table so you both know where you stand. Also agree on how many hours a week you can each devote to the business, and get a workable structure in place. My years in PR and marketing have been put to good use with weekly status meetings and agendas as long as my arm, meaning that no area of the business is left un-discussed. We know and appreciate the work that goes into running a company and we’re making it happen!

Words: Jessica Silver

To find out more about ElWell and how it could help you support your parents as they get older, go to www.el-well.com.
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