The new Netflix murder mystery movie Glass onion is a cautionary tale – but not about influencers, technical brothers, or ironic architecture, as some have suggested. Glass Onion (along with HBO’s Succession) is actually a warning about the potential dangers of doing business with your friends or family.
Such companies make a huge contribution to any economy. Worldwide, between 70 and 80% of companies are co-owned or co-managed by family or friends. Close relationships can be a great source of support and positive influence on a new idea or business.
Mine research, aimed at new business development within universities, shows that friends can be successful business partners. Especially for students, enterprising colleges and universities offer from support for friends to realize business dreams.
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There are a few challenges when you start a business with someone that can be made easier when you work with people you are close to. Founders must trust each other and understand each other’s likes, dislikes and aspirations. If you and your partner have similar values and approaches to life, you can probably predict how they will react in times of crisis or uncertainty. With this in mind, it is easy to convert an existing relationship into a business relationship.
Of course things don’t always go well. What may begin as occasional bickering or disagreements over the direction of a new venture can lead to resentment, a decline in the business (and relationship), and even legal trouble.
A business involving family or friends can seriously disrupt work-life balance critical to business success. Lack of boundaries and extra time spent discussing work can disrupt your personal relationship, leading to fatigue and resentment. It’s not realistic or healthy to talk about work all the time.
A family business that has existed for decades and has the same people at the top can eventually stagnate and become overly dependent on what are now depleted markets. This complacency, as with any type of business, can creep in and erode customer relationships, competitor knowledge, and ability to innovate.
Without proper care, these problems can become commonplace. As happens in Successionpersonality battles and power grabs can distract from productivity and threaten to derail the enterprise.
Protect yourself and your business
Before you get started, it’s important to plan ahead. This should include creating a strategy for business partners to leave the company amicably if necessary. It should also include consideration of the legal implications of a disagreement and a plan to protect ideas, business contributions and other intellectual property.
Research shows that in long-established family businesses the existence of known successors may affect how seriously the founders take intellectual property protection. Even with friends and loved ones, you still need to document and record ideas, designs, prototypes, products, processes, and slogans.
Before you jot down your ideas (or write them down on a napkin), here are five things to consider:
1. Transparency – what are everyone’s plans?
When starting a new business venture, it is important to be upfront about intentions and goals – short and long term. What brought you all to this potential startup? What do you want to achieve? These are questions you should ask.
2. Security – seek legal advice early
In addition to officially registering the business, the owners should contact an intellectual property attorney for expert advice on how to fairly protect initial and ongoing contributions with appropriate trademarks, patents, and copyrights, where appropriate.
3. Prioritize – stick to your strengths
Here’s what adds clear value to businesses: remembering what skills you bring. Even with friends, this is not an opportunity to just hang out and have fun. Yes, you should enjoy your job, but time, money and livelihood are at stake. A team consisting of many people with different skills and experiences ensures creativity, multiple perspectives and resilience in the face of inevitable changes.
4. Be kind – appreciate and consider life changes
Like the volatility of business, our lives can change instantly. Co-owners must take into account changes in work patterns, lifestyles and significant events to maintain health and happiness. This can be especially relevant when friends who co-own a business are in similar life stages, such as starting a family or getting married. Showing compassion and being prepared for these factors, when they arise, can reduce tension and conflict in day-to-day affairs.