Why I think your friend is not the best business partner ever

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I always wanted to be an entrepreneur right from childhood. It was in my DNA something that was deeply embedded in my blood. My Father always said I had the knack to be great and that he saw it in me.

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He said I got bored easily and never concentrated on one particular task for long. That alone made me unserious in class but full of promise in my Father’s eyes.

He was an entrepreneur himself and he passed onto me his dream without trying hard because we shared the same genes. All my childhood I looked up to the entrepreneur who lived in my Mother’s bedroom and all I ever wanted to be, was him.

He always stressed that I learn to do things by myself. This often angered me, the fact that my own Father wasn’t willing to offer a hand towards my personal development and growth, was indeed frustrating.

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But the greatest lesson I learned from  his life, was never to go into business with friends. In late 90s, after 10 years of operating a business together with a friend, my father’s best friend, and business partner, went behind his back to remove him as CEO of the company they started together.

That wasn’t the worst of it all though. He did this to him while he was on sick leave after he had suffered a stroke. Worried that the stroke would end his life, his friend turned the employees and stakeholders against him.

This actually hurt my dad financially and emotionally to the extent that it accelerated his illness until he passed on. He died from the frustration of being betrayed by the one person he had lived to trust and respect all his life.

Long story short, my Father has been gone for some time now but as fatal as that lesson was, I wasn’t able to hold onto that experience for a while.

As I grew older the memories of that lesson faded from my memory and I found myself going into business with a lot of friends. To be honest, Starts up are hard work and you need support emotionally, socially and financially because they are highly energy draining.

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The understanding between friends offers that comfort and feeling of security that creates a calm environment necessary for free thinking and decision making. Starting up a business with someone with whom you have a relationship with, is total fun.

I hadn’t been extremely successful with most of the venture in my personal life in particular except for this one. This one was meant to be a success to a reasonable extent.

I started this particular company with a childhood friend; it was a small company that made petroleum jelly. The idea was simple, great and easy to implement. We decided against equity investment and decided to fully co-finance our idea.

I brought in the larger chunk of the startup capital and this meant more shares for me. This in turn gave me the powers to call the shots anointing me as the superior despite our difference in age. He was five years older than I was.

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I won’t dwell so much on the details of what happened but I want to tell you, friendship got in the way of how we ran that business. It became hard to separate the two, friendship and business. All the things I was supposed to say I didn’t say for the sake of our friendship and yet this was at the expense of our business.

There was mismanagement but being the friend I was, I never opened my mouth to speak when it was necessary and when I didn’t, it created tension. It went on like this until our disagreements became perennial and irreconcilable. I worked my way out of the partnership on bitter terms and let go of my friendship with my childhood friend.

Its two years since I walked out of that partnership and things between us are getting back to normal now although slowly. He sent me mail telling me the door were always open if I wanted back although am not sure whether everything will ever be the same again.

He was a good friend and it really hurt. I wish I could go back in time and do things differently. I think this time I would gather the balls to speak out when it matters most.

Let me know if you have ever gone into business with a friend or family member. How did it work out? Are you still happily working together!? If yes, how have you managed to do that? Share with me in the comments below.

Till Next Time

JHL

ABOUT AUTHOR

Jahluum Herberts is the C.E.O of Flash Point an east African Information Technology Consultancy firm. He is also a co founder at YOUNG TREPS a global forum that focuses on helping the youth on their entrepreneurial voyage from brilliant ideas and start ups to financially profitable and prosperous companies

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