Most say that mixing business and personal relationships is a recipe for disaster , but it can be a tremendous asset to starting a business. Here’s why.
August 28, 2019 4 min read
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A common interpretation of ‘work-life balance’ is that working and enjoying your life should be mutually exclusive. That’s why founders are often advised to avoid starting companies with friends and family — that business could turn those relationships awry.
Though it’s true that burning bridges with those you love and respect is a risk that comes with starting a business together, friends and family bring value that no other partners can. And in that sense, they sometimes can be the best people to start companies with.
I spoke with a number of successful founders that made it work, and from their experiences, gathered three unparalleled benefits of starting companies with friends and family.
1. Trust is a given
When it comes to hiring and firing, delegating roles, growth strategy, and other important aspects of building a successful company, trust between co-founders is pivotal. Without it, unnecessary conflicts ensue, and they distract from what really matters.
To get a practical example of this idea, I chatted with Ben Lerer, the founder and CEO of Group Nine Media and Managing Partner at Lerer Hippeau Ventures. He told me: “I feel so fortunate to be able to work with my dad at Lerer Hippeau and my sister at Group Nine. Not only are they both incredibly smart and fun to be around, but there’s nothing more important in a business partnership than trust and who can you trust more than family?”
Because Ben employs over 400 employees at Group Nine and works with over $120 million in capital at Lerer Hippeau, he can’t do it all alone. He has to trust that those he works with are both willing and able to get the job done, and when he’s working with family, that trust is a given.
2. It makes communication more efficient
When founders get into conflicts with one another, it’s often due to some kind of misalignment of values or an outright misunderstanding. When you decide to work together with friends and family, at least some of these misunderstandings can be avoided altogether simply because you know one another on a much deeper level.
This was especially the case for Kara and Theo Goldin, the husband-wife pair that founded and grew Hint Water into a $90 million business. Kara told me: “We understand the commitment and we encourage each other to thrive. We both acknowledge that we are each better at certain things but together we make an effective team. That kind of trust allows for communication to flow more swiftly and accurately.”
When executive communication is seamless, it sets an excellent example from the top down. And especially in a company’s earliest days, effective communication without drawn-out hurdles allows it to move much quicker.
3. Your values are closely aligned
One of the biggest time sinks, when there are multiple partners in a company, is having drastically different values. Of course, discussions around those values aren’t a waste of time, but when co-founders share inherent values, it’s a huge leg up.
Justin Lafazan and Dylan Gambardella, friends and co-founders of Next Gen Summit, an online community of over 3,000 members and annual conference held for up and coming entrepreneurs, are an example of this idea. They told me: “A core value we share at Next Gen is to make relationships our #1 priority. We ensure everyone in our network — whether a community member, partner, or investor — feels valued at all times.”
When co-founders agree on fundamental values for their company, that level of mutual understanding makes formulating strategy and company direction a far more straightforward and powerful process.