The 4 considerations for going into business with a friend

There is a large debate in the business world about whether or not you should go into business with someone you’re currently friends with. Clinic Mastery's Peter Flynn outlines the things you should consider before choosing a friend as a business partner.

Peter Flynn, Clinic Mastery ·

PhysioFit Physiotherapy founders Peter Flynn & Andrew Zacharia

Should you go into business with a friend? The short answer is yes.

There is a large debate in the business world about whether or not you should go into business with someone you’re currently friends with, and it’s one I often get asked as a business mentor who is also in a partnership in my own allied health clinics. However, all cards on the table, my story was slightly different to what most people expect and also something I would highly recommend against for all of my clients. Andrew Zacharia (my incredible business partner and one of the greatest minds in business I’ve ever met) and I weren’t really friends or even knew each other too much before we went into business—we had both worked in the same gym together for about one week when I started my first clinic. I reached out to Andrew and used his knowledge to assist in launching my clinic; he had recently opened his own single room Physio clinic out of a Crossfit Gym.

From this starting point we continued to help each other out for the first five months of business—presenting workshops together as separate businesses, running the same marketing campaigns, and even discussing our core purpose and vision together.

Then, whilst having a parmy at the local pub only five months later, we decided on the spot to merge our businesses and become a partnership.

It made so much sense at the time. We both had an insane work drive, and our core purpose of changing the healthcare experience for the better was aligned. So, as all good business people would not recommend, we wrote up our own contract on Microsoft Word that night, signed it together, and Physio Fit Adelaide was born.

Now, for all those looking to go into any partnership, you should definitely have your contracts drawn up professionally and your business structure built by those who are qualified and experienced in that area. However for the first nineteen months of Physio Fit, it was simply that self-written Microsoft Word document contract in a partnership business model. I’m very glad to say we now have proper contracts and a company structure that has supported the growth of the business over the past few years, but for those considering going into business with a partner, please always consult with professionals who align with your values. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve the success we’ve had recently without proper structure and professional advice, and I’m super proud to say that our team recently won the South Australian Telstra Business Awards in the Small and Succeeding Category.

Andrew Zacharia & Peter Flynn are announced as winners of South Australian Telstra Business Award - Small and Succeeding Category

This leads me to my first consideration when considering going into partnership with a friend:

1Don't overcomplicate things

Quite simply put, ask yourself these questions:

  • “Does this person share the same values, core purpose and vision as me?”
  • “Is this the person I’d like to spend a huge amount of time working with to achieve our goals?”
  • “Do we feel open and honest enough to challenge each other?”

I may be too laid back at times—however, I’ve seen a lot of friends looking at getting into business together getting bogged down in things like the wording of the contract (and all fifty worst case scenarios) that they forget the bigger picture.

If the answer is ‘yes’ to all three questions above, then make it happen. If a worst case scenario were to occur then having someone who is a ‘yes’ to these questions will be the perfect partner to help you navigate through worst-case-scenarios successfully.

2Be open minded, humble, and above the line

It’s okay to disagree. In fact, it’s incredibly healthy! There is no way that you and your friend/business partner can agree on everything, but that is actually one of your strongest assets. The way I see it, you both want to achieve the same outcome, success for the business, and you now have two great options to decide between to achieve it. Put ego aside. It matters nothing whose idea leads to your success, you will win and ‘lose’ together (‘losing’ should be replaced with ‘learn,’ however), and if the first idea doesn’t work out then you have another great option for plan B. Andrew and I have always said that we don’t care whose idea is the one we decide on, as long as we continue to grow, make an impact, and move towards our vision. This is a principle we live and die by at Physio Fit, and as we grow over the next few years to include more directors in the business we feel this is an essential mindset.

If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking

George Patton

3Trust

Trust is everything. Do you trust your friend as a business partner for the long term? Do they trust you? No relationship can thrive without trust. Business is no different.

4Do your values align?

What drives you and your friend? I feel that to be truly successful and genuinely happy in your partnership then your values must align. Now, values aren’t just buzzwords that you stick on your wall. They are not something you create, they are actions you identify and then amplify. They are actions you live out every day, and are shown in how you do everything.

At Clinic Mastery we use the following questions as our test for values:

  • Will these values stand the test of time?
  • Ten years from now, will these values be relevant?
  • Are you willing to hire/fire people based on whether they fit your core values, even if an employee adds a lot of value in the short-term?
  • If you awoke tomorrow with more than enough money to retire comfortably for the rest of your life, would you continue to apply this core value to your productive activities?
  • Would you personally continue to hold this core value even if you were not rewarded for holding it?
  • Would you want your practice to hold this core value, even if at some point in time it became a competitive disadvantage—e.g. if the environment penalized the practice for living this core value?

If the answer to all the above questions is yes, then it is a true value to you. Ensure your values are aligned.

Now, this is by no means the comprehensive test for whether or not you should go into business with a friend. It is just my experience having (kind of) done it myself and helped other business owners through this transition. At the end of the day, business can (and should) be good fun, and it’s even more enjoyable when you get to do it with people you love spending time with. So the long answer is also yes, but having taken into consideration all the above and whatever else is meaningful to you and your friend.

I’ll finish with an African proverb that is a favourite saying of Andrew’s:

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Peter & Andrew's PhyioFit physiotherapy team at the 2019 Telstra Business Awards

Read more about the reality of going into business with a friend.

Author information

Peter is a co-founder of PhysioFit clinics, a director of iMoveU Practitioner Training, and a business mentor with Clinic Mastery. He is also a speaker on communication, marketing and leadership in healthcare.

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