Get All Access for $5/mo

Friends Forever? Stay Close Even After Co-Founding a Company. Each partner should contribute to the business based on strengths. Rely on an advisor if needed and prepare for your relationship to evolve.

By Zeke Adkins Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Starting your own business isn't easy. Which is why many entrepreneurs choose to partner with a friend. Although this may seem like a slam dunk idea, many factors come into play when building a successful business -- especially with a friend. Choosing the wrong person to partner with can be catastrophic to a business.

Aaron Kirley and I were friends in high school and roommates after college. While roommates, we started our luggage shipping business, Luggage Forward. Here are insights from our nine-year journey for other entrepreneurs interested in following suit:

Related: How to Find the Perfect Co-Founder

Choose a co-founder with a different area of expertise. Select a partner wisely. Don't start a business with a friend just because of that relationship or because spending time together is enjoyable. Find a partner with a different area of expertise so each person can carve out very specific roles. That way both can equally contribute to the success of the business.

I have a background in business development and marketing, while Aaron has a background in technology and business-process optimization so we manage and direct different parts of our business. This allows each of us to "own" part of the decision making and pull our weight. When something new or unexpected comes up, it naturally falls to the person with expertise in that area.

It's impossible for one person to be an expert in everything or do everything.The saying "two better heads are better than one" is very much true. Release some control to the partner and allow him or her to focus on the area of expertise. Be sure to have a strong mission so both partners are working toward the same goal. If both founders consider themselves experts on the same topic, disagreements can evolve that can be detrimental to the business.

Related: The Art of Having a Productive Argument

Have a trusted advisor. Inevitably, the two business partners won't agree on important business decisions at times. This can really hurt progress in a fast-paced, high-growth startup. So use an outside, third-party perspective to help work through strategic issues.

Even without setting up a formal board of directors, have an agreed-upon advisor or mentor who is willing to help in tough circumstances. Assuming this person has more experience, he or she can provide information that the two co-founders might not have considered and can help them reach a better 360-degree view of the situation.

Related: Mixing Business and Friendship? Read This First.

Deciding when the exchange is business or pleasure. For Aaron and me, the division between our relationships on the job and outside work are very blurred. When two friends work together, they should try to have fun with each other -- grab lunch or have drinks at the end of the day -- so the friendship doesn't vanish.

When not at work, try to steer clear of important strategic conversations. Talking about the industry or the business isn't completely out of the question, however. We genuinely enjoy talking about work and find it interesting, but we know that some strenuous conversations should wait until we are at the office.

Over time, relationships will evolve and it's possible the business partners will spend less time together outside of work and that's OK. When people are around each other other all day and constantly striving and working to achieve the same objective, it is healthy to have some time apart.

Related: The Survival Guide to Co-Founders Living Far Apart

Zeke Adkins

Co-Founder of Luggage Forward

Zeke Adkins is the co-founder of Luggage Forward. Previously he was a member of the worldwide market-development team at Atlas Venture and vice president of Kurtzman Group, a consulting and advisory firm. He also served as executive director of Corporate Governance Summits, a joint venture between Kurtzman Group and Kalorama Partners.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick


ChatGPT is Becoming More Human-Like. Here's How The Tool is Getting Smarter at Replicating Your Voice, Brand and Personality.

AI can be instrumental in building your brand and boosting awareness, but the right approach is critical. A custom GPT delivers tailored collateral based on your ethos, personality and unique positioning factors.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Apple Reportedly Isn't Paying OpenAI to Use ChatGPT in iPhones

The next big iPhone update brings ChatGPT directly to Apple devices.

Business News

Is the AI Industry Consolidating? Hugging Face CEO Says More AI Entrepreneurs Are Looking to Be Acquired

Clément Delangue, the CEO of Hugging Face, a $4.5 billion startup, says he gets at least 10 acquisition requests a week and it's "increased quite a lot."

Business News

Sony Pictures Entertainment Purchases Struggling, Cult-Favorite Movie Theater Chain

Alamo Drafthouse originally emerged from bankruptcy in June 2021.

Growing a Business

He Immigrated to the U.S. and Got a Job at McDonald's — Then His Aversion to Being 'Too Comfortable' Led to a Fast-Growing Company That's Hard to Miss

Voyo Popovic launched his moving and storage company in 2018 — and he's been innovating in the industry ever since.