Are friends good business associates? Does it pay to focus on friendliness as an entrepreneur? Since friendship is one of our principles at Arctic15, and as we are approaching Valentine’s Day (or Friendship Day, as celebrated here in Finland), we decided to slow down and reflect on where friendships stand in the world of entrepreneurs.

As we all know, business can be pretty serious business (sigh). Still, fun and meaningful relationships with co-workers can end up being a by-product dictated by sheer luck. You can’t pick your colleagues and actions carry consequences in the workplace – hence the expression not to mix business and pleasure. Assuming pleasure isn’t a completely out-of-control cocaine habit but rather just, you know, being actual friends with your co-workers, then perhaps this reservation is misguided. When it comes to the friendship between employees, the domains where clashes might occur are usually restricted to social etiquette. On the flip-side, working in an environment where there are friendly faces might make the work itself more pleasant, so that’s a plus.

But what about entrepreneurs?

Friendship Between Entrepreneurs: Pros and Cons

Interestingly, entrepreneurs are a different breed from employees altogether. Becoming an entrepreneur is an enormous challenge to one’s professional and personal life. The weight of stacked responsibilities is felt through and through, and this can truly put the relationships between business partners to the test. The fear in thinking about setting shop amongst friends thus rightfully concerns whether the friendship itself will play a negative role in how obstacles are dealt with.

It’s a double-edged sword of which the sharpest end depends on the compatibility of the people involved. However, there are a few considerations you should think about.

You have the power of choice

As co-founders or business partners, you get to decide who gets hired, made associate etc. This is a great opportunity to influence the psychological foundation of your business from the ground up. If you run a business with friends, you are more likely to be hinge towards mutually shared qualities in your workers. After all, you have a good time together and you know your ins and outs – this will reflect onto your recruitment decisions.

You share the same goals

You want to improve and grow your business. Why should your friends feel any differently? Mutual success, or destruction, can be an immense source of drive, which you should capitalize on as much as possible. Having the bond of friendship can push you to challenge as well as support each other, and with the ultimate objective being the betterment of your business, you might find that your closeness allows you to navigate through differences you might have over how that goal is achieved.

You share a common language

You share a more common language with your friends than you do with others and this will play a big part when everyone needs to be informed or on the same page about what’s happening in the company. Likewise, a good level of communication is crucial when making decisions and innovating your enterprise. The interests and shared experiences you have with your friends will provide a pool of references you can tap into when looking for the best way to make a point or illustrate a line of thought.

Boundaries?

A notable source of conflict between friends comes from overstepping boundaries. Overtly informal manners of communication such as joking over personal issues or sarcasm, emotionally loaded behavior etc. It’s the kind of stuff which might eventually become irritating, and therefore might be best left outside the office, even if it does happen between mates while off-duty. So why not agree on the rules of conduct beforehand for the work environment? This more of advice rather than an advantage per se, but arguably deciding on behavioral guidelines with friends might be easier to pull off.

At the end of the day, there’s plenty of stories around about buddies making it in the industry, as there will be nightmare versions of the very same set-up. But according to Prof. Diana Haytko, having friends in your business might at least the better option in terms of personal satisfaction:

‘Interpersonal relationships exist across categories including strictly business, business friends, and highly personal. The relationships are distinguished based on the knowledge base developed about the brand manager. Overwhelmingly, the participants claim that developing close, interpersonal relationships is beneficial to both their professional and personal lives.’

It’s not so difficult to imagine. We are social creatures by nature – we have an innate need to feel like part of a meaningful social context. So as long as you keep a level-headed attitude, that is, be respectful and have realistic expectations, forming friendships in your business can be a valuable asset both to your enterprise, as well as your personal well-being. Indeed, business with friends might mess things up; then again it also might do the opposite. But you’re definitely more likely to enjoy the ride when you’re with friends.

At Arctic15 we stand for real friendship and true entrepreneurship. Join us on June 5-6 @ Cable Factory, Helsinki. Tickets here.