Good Fences Make. . . Good Partners?

Business partners often end up with strong friendships, but is it possible for friends to succeed as business partners? It would seem to be a natural evolution; you know each other, you like each other, enjoy spending time together, and work well together. But the transition from friends to partners may not be as easy as you think, according to this article by Kelly K. Spors in The Wall Street Journal.

One might wonder what could possibly hinder two seemingly compatible people from successfully running a business? The fact is that the qualities that make a wonderful friendship may not necessarily make for a wonderful partnership. The things we admire in our friends are often the things we lack in ourselves—the wild and irresponsible compliment to our sedate and rational selves (or vice versa). But bring that delightful and wild friend into a business partnership and who will end up shouldering the burden of responsibility?

Also, some partnerships fail not because the two partners are incompatible, but because they are so compatible that they take their knowledge of each other for granted and neglect to talk about key issues in the business. In such cases it is possible to know each other too well.

Does this mean that friends simply cannot become business partners? With the right planning and preparation it is possible to have a successful partnership and a wonderful friendship.

What is the right planning? Kelly K. Spores mentions three things in particular: (1) Know yourself and your partner; (2) Create a detailed business plan and partnership agreement with the help of an attorney; and (3) Have a good exit strategy. A good exit strategy can save your friendship in the event your partnership doesn’t work out.

Good fences make good neighbors,” wrote Robert Frost, and good plans make good partners.