Getting Down to Business

The question of mixing business with pleasure is not a new one. I’ve seen enough friendships go down the tubes due to business disagreements to believe that working with your BFFs is not a good plan. This is not to say that you can’t turn coworkers into friends (you can and you should) but I’m skeptical of making the transition in the opposite direction. As John D. Rockefeller said, “A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.”

The friendship getting the most play in popular culture these days is one that proves my point: That of Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin. Most of you have probably heard of Zuckerberg—the 26-year-old founder and CEO of Facebook, and the youngest billionaire in the world. If you haven’t seen The Social Network you may be less familiar with Saverin, a co-founder of Facebook and, if the movie is to be believed, Zuckerberg’s ex-best friend.

According to the film, which is based on Ben Mezrich’s non-fiction book The Accidental Billionaires but which Facebook has called “fiction,” Zuckerberg and Saverin were BFFs whose relationship was torn apart when Zuckerberg decided to virtually shut Saverin out of the business’s future. The two had different ideas of what would make the website most successful.

It’s a great movie for plenty of reasons, not least of which is Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue. But from a friendship perspective, it was fascinating—and sort of terrifying—to watch the seemingly tight friendship deteriorate. There was no specific catalyst for the breakup, just a slow drifting apart that eventually exploded in one final, scandalous, Justin Timberlake-inspired blowup.

Personally, I’d lean against going into business with my friends not because I think any of them would screw me out of my entitled fortunes. For me it would be the concern that we wouldn’t be compatible co-workers, and that the residue from any work skirmishes would taint our real-life friendship. You see, my friends are mostly type-A go-getters. And so am I. And when you get together a group of people who all think their way is the right way, it can get a little dicey.

I love my college friends more than anything—they are the women who taught me what it means to have the friendships I’m now so desperately seeking—but I am not kidding when I say that deciding where to go to dinner can feel like we’re trying to come up with a diplomatic solution to the nuclear arms race. Everyone needs to be heard—which more often than not results in everyone talking over each other—and each of us has an opinion. Always. When we were sophomores, in an effort to decide where and with whom we would all live the following year, seven of us sat in a room for two hours voting on every possible permutation of living arrangements. The end result was fantastic, but it wasn’t the most efficient method of decision-making. My only memory of the meeting in Jenna’s dorm room is of wanting to shoot myself. Today, it’s one of our favorite jokes—“remember the permutations?!?”—but it was a mini-version of what could happen if our gang tried a business venture.

If you got a group of type-A strangers together with an organizational hierarchy in place, it would likely be the basis for solid business dealings. But throw ladies who’ve been friends for 10 years—meaning they treat each other more like sisters than coworkers—in a room, and make them all equal partners? Maybe it would go smoothly. But given how much I adore my friends, I’m not willing to risk it.

Have you ever gone into business with a close friend? How did it go? Do you think friends can be business parters? Why or why not?

13 Comments

Filed under BFFs and Work, The Old Days

13 responses to “Getting Down to Business

  1. megan

    No, I haven’t and I never would. I woudldn’t risk friendship for business ever. What about, though, going into/starting a business with your spouse?

    • Oooh, for me that might be dangerous territory too. Though I think we’d be better at both accepting our separate roles and deferring to the other in things.. Sort of the way we (try to) run our household…

  2. Lynn

    Three words, Rachel: The Babysitter’s Club.

  3. I don’t think I’d ever go into business with my friends. It’s dicey enough running a business with my husband. Mostly it’s about the work styles, but there is that little bit of worry that what if something happens? Running a business is stressful and friendships don’t need that kind of stress.

    Also, this line is awesome and describes me and my friends to a T “I am not kidding when I say that deciding where to go to dinner can feel like we’re trying to come up with a diplomatic solution to the nuclear arms race.” HA!

  4. Lorrie Paige

    I think friends can be business partners. Depends on the friendship. It works for some; it doesn’t work for others.

    Every relationship situation is different.

    Like people say you shouldn’t be friends with your kids. That too depends on the personalities in the relationship. I know of beautiful parent/child BFFs that are still going strong well into the child’s adulthood.

  5. Suzannah

    Friends going into any venture that involves money ,I think is best avoided….it is the most common reason I have seen friendships end…rules that dictate business are not personal and friendships by their very nature are personal…

  6. Lorrie Paige

    I found this objective link online and agree with the author:

    The Entrepreneurial Mind (Blemont University)

    Friends as Partners

    http://forum.belmont.edu/cornwall/archives/002329.html

  7. JenD

    My butcher once gave me some great advice. He said, “Partners are for dancing, not for business.” He was so right about that. Unfortunately, my husband found out the hard way that while some people are conducive to long term friendships, that does not a successful business relationship make. We lost everything to someone we knew and trusted for years. JUST SAY NO!

    • Lorrie Paige

      Wow, that’s terrible Jen, but do you really think that person should have been a friend of yours anyway? Sounds like bad-news person period, having nothing to do with a friend/business relationship.

      • JenD

        The thing is, he wasn’t my friend; he had been friends with my husband for over 20 years – we’re talking extended family type friends. You just never know the secrets people can keep for ages. Turned out this guy was a highly functioning alcoholic who basically used the business as his personal piggy bank to finance a lifestyle everyone (family included) thought he’d achieved through his business savvy. Everyone got conned, including his adult children whose money he walked off with, as well. You never know someone until you’re in business with them. The end.

  8. Pingback: A Man’s World « MWF Seeking BFF

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