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Buddy System Can a great college friend prove to be an equally good business partner?

By Nichole L. Torres

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

So you're thinking of starting a business with one of yourvery smart, very cool college friends. Maybe he's yourroommate, or perhaps you met her in a business class. It might evenbe a group of your fraternity brothers or sorority sisters who allwant to start a business together. While it sounds like the perfectkind of partnership, is going into business with a college buddy(or buddies) really a good idea?

For the co-founders of Chili Willy's, a quick-serve Mexicanrestaurant in Hamilton, New York, their friendship proved to be aperfect recipe for entrepreneurship. Chris Nordsiek, Preston Burnesand Matt Brown, all 21-year-old students at Colgate University inHamilton, became friends during their freshman year. The threeinitially came up with the restaurant idea for a business plancompetition during their sophomore year. Because Nordsiek, Burnesand Brown have different strengths and skills, going into businesstogether seemed natural for the friends. "For the three of us,our strengths are very different," says Nordsiek. "We allhave a different perspective, and between the three of us, we can[identify] any hole or problem [in the business]." Being inthe same fraternity for a full year before starting the businessalso helped the team really get to know each other.

But partnering with your college friends isn't always asmart idea. Two pitfalls of the strategy are ruining friendshipsand giving friends with shaky credentials key positions in yourcompany. According to Graham Mitchell, director of the Program inEntrepreneurship at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,"Clearly, there has to be a good sort of chemistry with peopleon a personal level, and it helps if there's a natural divisionof capabilities and talents."

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