How To Start A Business with Your Bestfriend….and Watch Your Relationship and Your Bottom Line Grow
When my business partner Kim Strengari and I decided to go into business together, let’s just say that we had two things on our side – youth and unwarranted bravado. To many, these things would seem like a recipe for a disaster but for two young women who wanted to enter the male-dominated restaurant world (on our own, nonetheless!), these two traits were exactly what we needed to get our start.
Kim and I first met tending bar in the Main Line area of the Philadelphia suburbs and quickly learned that a smart business sense, a great personality and the ability to accommodate customers’ needs could take us very far in this world if we played our cards right. So, we saved our money, worked extremely hard, learned everything we could about the restaurant industry and took a small step toward being business owners first by opening… a cleaning business.
Yes, that’s right a cleaning business. We knew that in order to reach our ultimate goal of opening our own restaurant that we needed to start small. More importantly, we needed to see if we could work together. So, we would tend bar until 2 AM, then race out the back door to the corporate buildings that had hired us to clean their offices and would scrub the rest of the night away, sometimes crawling back to our small apartments at the break of dawn. But this was our first step in becoming entrepreneurs. One that we still consider to be monumental in shaping our work and business ethic today…and one that still conjures up some great laughs after a few glasses of wine!
However, after a short while, a lot of hard work and sleepless nights, we were presented with the opportunity to purchase our first restaurant. Having been in the industry for so long, and with many friends already running restaurants, we knew the potential pitfalls of starting a restaurant. That’s why anyone considering going into business with his or her best friend should take these critical steps to ensure that his or her business isn’t just successful but that the friendship stays stronger than ever!
1. Consult a Lawyer – You should meet with a lawyer that specializes in partnerships. He or she will ask you a lot of difficult things that you did not think about, including: “What happens if one partner wants out? How are you going to value your business? What happens if one partner dies?” The lawyer will draft the legal terms that you both agree on.
2. Define Each Partner’s Roles – The handling of day-to-day duties is something that came naturally to Kim and me, as we have very different talents and abilities. For example, in the restaurant I was the “back of the house,” in the kitchen cooking and Kim was “front of the house,” handling customers and ensuring the quality of service. However, over time, as we’ve grown and acquired more restaurants these roles are less defined and we work more as partners. So, for anyone starting out, I’d suggest that at first play to each other’s strengths. If you are a numbers person, you take care of the accounting. If your partner is more creative let her do the marketing. However, be ready to be flexible, which takes me to my next step.
3. Be Ready to Adapt to Change – When it’s just the two of you starting out, there is no such thing as “that’s not my job”. Be ready to take on anything! Whether that’s ordering supplies or being ready to step in when your partner is overwhelmed, you have to be willing to be flexible or your business (or your friendship) will not last. Even to this day, with three restaurants, I still find myself washing dishes or picking up ink for the printer.
4. Take Time Out to Just Be Friends – This may seem simple but it’s not. Something all best friends who are going into business together should know is to always make time to be friends. Set dates to have girl talk and not business. A business partnership is just like a marriage there’s always a give-and-take, you must respect and listen to the other person’s ideas.
Starting a business with your best friend can be the most rewarding thing you ever do. After all, no one knows you better than your best friend and no one wants to see you succeed more than he or she does. So, don’t be afraid to take that leap of faith, just have a safety net in place for when you take it…or at least learn how to swim first!
BIO: About Marianne Gere
Marianne Gere and Kim Strengari own three successful restaurants in Conshohocken, PA, right outside Philadelphia, and a thriving catering and events company. For more information, visit www.ConshyGirls.com
If you own a business with another partner, we would love to hear about it. Post below some experiences you’ve had below and share your tips