[thelist] Three Buddies Dot Com...

George Dillon george.dillon at ukonline.co.uk
Wed Nov 15 15:39:11 CST 2000

Hi Alan

I was going to keep this short, but your question touched a nerve and I'm a
bit tiddly after my son's 2nd birthday party... so please forgive me if this
outburst is not the sort of hardcore practical advice you were seeking, but
I mean well... ;o)

>From bitter experience of trying to start businesses with both friends and
family I would give the 3 of you this one piece of advice - put everything
you can think of down in writing ASAP and have a lawyer check it out.  Don't
wait until your business is up and running.  Do it NOW while it's still
embryonic.  [Although it may already be too late... as Robert put it "your
friendship is now bussiness..." but better late than... erm... even later
(as Netscape might say).]

It may seem horribly real-politik to suddenly turn round to your
buddies and say "Hey let's go see a lawyer and put how we stand down on
paper" before you've even begun, but that's exactly what you should do if
you value your friendship (and your business).  The alternative may be
having to pay much larger sums to lawyers later on while losing both your
business and your friends.

To you personally I'd say give a moment's thought NOW to which you value
more and would fight to keep and which you are prepared to see fall away -
your friendship or your interest in the business - so that if a parting of
the ways does come, you won't be unprepared for the painful choice and
internal/external battle.

You'd think (and I have done more than once) that you only need formal
contracts when doing business with strangers or people you know but don't
trust but the opposite is actually the case.  It's when you think you know
and like/trust people that problems occur because it's then that you ASSUME
you are united and working in accord when in fact you may have different
viewpoints/objectives.  And such divisions are not always immediately
apparent nor are they necessarily premeditated.  They can remain hidden to
all parties (or not even develop) until you are a long way down the road,
the stakes have grown high and suddenly you find an avoidable difference of
opinion becomes a relationship and business destroying schism.

Having said that... starting a business with friends can extend and deepen
your friendship in a way that you can't imagine now while at the same time
transforming your working life into the most exciting adventure.  16 years
ago I started a company with my (then) girlfriend, and while it only lasted
3 years (out-lasting the relationship by 2!) it brought us so close that 2
years ago (to this day) she helped at the birth of my son.  And yes we have
worked together since (and in fact are planning to do so again next year),
and no we didn't put it in writing 16 years ago but we WILL be doing so next
year precisely because we now care about each other more than the business.

Good Luck Alan


George Dillon

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