What to Do When Friends Want to Be Co-Founders

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

Stay informed and join our daily newsletter now!
Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy
What to Do When Friends Want to Be Co-Founders
Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com
3 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you're an entrepreneur with any track record of success, you've had those awkward conversations at parties that start with, "Wow I'd love to be where you are," and wrap up with, "any chance you could use a good… [salesperson, training manager, archivist, dentist] in your organization? Ha Ha Ha."

It's easy to laugh back and say, "I'm afraid we're full up right now, but if you're serious, send us your resume and we'll let you know if we need a dentist in the near future..."

It's much more difficult to turn the discussion if a friend wants/hopes/expects to join you in creating and running the business. She might have been there when you came up with your brilliant idea, listened as you honed it into the start of a business plan, and cheered you on when you came up with just the right product name. You've seen your friend as helpful and encouraging while your friend sees him or herself as part of the business.

Unfortunately, by the time you realize the situation, your friend is making plans to provide start-up space in his basement or her rec room and has been telling everyone about this great new business he's starting with a friend. There's no great way to handle the situation, but here are some thoughts as you move through the process.

Consider it. Maybe your friend would actually be a good partner. Ask yourself the following questions: Do your perspectives mesh while staying different enough to encourage discussion and debate? Can you spend a lot of time with your friend without getting bored or irritated? Can your friend fulfill many roles? Does your friend have all the desirable business partner traits: responsible, reliable, hard worker, good with people, rich aunt?

Be fair. Is it possible that all of those great ideas and plans really did come from both of you? Consider whether you're not unjustly taking all the credit. If your friend has already been acting more like a partner from the start, guess what, you have a partner!

Check your pronouns. Have you been saying "I" or "we?" How about "us" or "our?" Has your friend slowly been changing his pronoun usage to include "our" instead of "your?" If so, you might start changing those pronouns back to the first person and see if your friend gets the message without either of you having to face "the big discussion."

The big discussion. This is by far the hardest option. Feelings could get hurt, and you risk losing a good friend. But even if you bricked and you inadvertently painted an inaccurate picture of the situation, honesty is best. Have that difficult discussion about how each of you will proceed before you startup. In many ways launching a business is like getting married, you don't want either to end in divorce.

More from Entrepreneur

Get heaping discounts to books you love delivered straight to your inbox. We’ll feature a different book each week and share exclusive deals you won’t find anywhere else.
Jumpstart Your Business. Entrepreneur Insider is your all-access pass to the skills, experts, and network you need to get your business off the ground—or take it to the next level.
Entrepreneur Store scours the web for the newest software, gadgets & web services. Explore our giveaways, bundles, "Pay What You Want" deals & more.

Latest on Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Media, Inc. values your privacy. In order to understand how people use our site generally, and to create more valuable experiences for you, we may collect data about your use of this site (both directly and through our partners). By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the use of that data. For more information on our data policies, please visit our Privacy Policy.