Business partners

How do you survive doing business with friends or partners?

I’ve suffered two business breakups with friends and various partners. Right now I’m happily working on my own, but I sometimes wonder if there’s a bigger business opportunity that could otherwise be accomplished with a partner.

Can you help?

31 years old
Jakarta, Indonesia


Most apiring entrepreneurs think that business will be easier or more fun if they go into it with friends. The truth is, having business partners (friends or not) radically changes the dynamic of any new company and adds complication. Therefore, only partner when it’s absolutely critical.

First, think about the job description for “founder.” Most founders eventually progress to some other role (CEO, head of some department, etc.) But the very instant the company is founded, the founder has two roles:

  1. Hire great employees
  2. Build the initial product

There’s a reason I listed them in that order — usually when you do a good job at #1, #2 is easy.

When should you partner? When you’re not qualified to do #1. For example, if you’re a sales pro building a technology company, you’re probably not qualified to build and manage a technology team. That still doesn’t mean you should partner — you could hire a great VP of Engineering — but you probably don’t have the $$$ to do that yet.

Likewise, if you’re a basement-dwelling code junkie starting a sales-intensive business, maybe you could use a polished business partner.

But just partnering with your friends cuz it sounds fun? One of you will end up doing 99% of the work. Don’t let that be you.


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