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How Can I Protect a Friendship With My Co-Founder?

Readers are invited to submit a question for an entrepreneur, which we will then pose to a YEC member. This group is full of knowledge and experience — we're eager to share their insights with you.

Question: How Can I Protect a Friendship With My Co-Founder?

I want to start a business with a friend, but I am concerned about balancing the personal and business relationship. Do you have any advice?

Meet our Entrepreneur: Jesse Lear, Founder, Intentionally Lucky

Jesse Lear is a serial entrepreneur and author of the life-hacking blog Intentionally Lucky. He is obsessed with finding smart, unconventional ways to live the good life for less and has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Inc., Time, Huffington Post, and more.

Answer: Align Mission and Values

It’s very important to sit down with your friend to talk about vision, mission, and values and to make sure your thoughts are aligned.

I built a business for seven years with my best friend and exited successfully in 2018. It's a lot more fun and implies a higher level of trust, but the whole thing is easily doomed if either partner has a different vision or order of values. The only reason it worked for us is that we valued the friendship over the business and had very similar moral beliefs — as well as beliefs about how a successful business should be built/run.

The hard part about going into business with friends/family is that the odds are high that, at some point, you will have to choose which is more important to you: the relationship or the business. If it's the relationship, then you need to decide now that you're willing to accept under-performance or even loss of the business should the two of you ever come to an impasse. If it's the business, then I'd not only second-guess the quality of the personal relationship but also be ready for some serious drama and headaches in the future.

Ironically, knowing that we'd both be willing to ditch the business for the sake of the friendship was probably one of the main things that contributed to the success of the business.