Your business coaching client, who is thinking about starting their own business but is unsure about whether they should become partners with someone they know, asks your the following question: “A friend and I want to go into business together but I’m not sure if we can work together. How do I find out before we start?”
Here’s a response from LCI’s Master Coach Terry Neal…
This statement reflects an increasing occurrence in today’s work environment where more and more people want to start their own business so that they can be their own boss. This in itself requires great planning and organisation even for a sole operator of a proposed new business. However a far greater challenge can occur when two people who may not have worked together before or who may have been in the same industry and even in the same workplace, decide that they want to go into business together.
Your client has raised an important question which probably is underlined by concerns about how it will be to work together away from either their individual or collective current workplace situation (that possibly does provide stability for your client financially and socially), as well as how will it be to work closely with their friend.
Initially as the coach you would need to gather information about your client, the business that they are proposing to create with their friend, what their goal is for the business and what they see as their strengths and challenges in the proposed business.
From this investigation you and they will have a clearer picture of in relation to the intended business as well as their vision for the business. You could then ask questions to help them to start finding out how much they know about their friend and if they could feel comfortable about working with them.
Questions like: How long have you known your friend? How long have you worked together and/or worked in the same industry? What qualities do you like about them? What challenges do you have with them? Do you two mix socially? How did the idea of working together come about? Who approached who? Do you know why your friend wants to go into the proposed business in general and specifically with you?
There could be more questions that flow from this but the point is to assist your client to become more aware of aspects of how well they know their friend as well as becoming more aware about themselves in areas that they hadn’t realised or weren’t sure about before in relation to their friend as well as their proposed venture.
Your client needs to be made aware that the more honestly they look at how well they know both themselves and their friend, the more likely that the proposed business venture will start on a solid footing (if indeed it starts at all).
Following on from this information gathering exercise, you could set your client a task to be done between this and a subsequent session. In this case the task would be to set up a meeting with their friend to talk about some basic issues that have come to light as a result of the questions you asked of your client that may have changed some of your client’s perspectives around both working with their friend as well as the whole business proposal.
Remind your client that this could assist both them and their friend to obtain as clear a picture as possible of how each one of you sees both the working together and the business itself. All of this assists your client to acknowledge as far as it’s possible to do so about what it could be like to work together.
You could provide a list of questions for your client to assist the process with their friend. Questions that you might suggest could include:

  1. If our proposed business were to have exactly the impact that you wanted it to have, what would this look like?
  2. What’s your vision for the business?
  3. Where do you see our individual and collective challenges being?
  4. What do you think are our individual and collective strengths?
  5. What do you think we’ll need to do to get started in our own business?

Your client needs to be encouraged to assist with the best possible outcome when asking these questions by reminding them to pick an appropriate time and place to talk over these questions; a situation where there will not be any interruptions or where the meeting could be overheard by anyone else; so not in the work place but in a relaxed “away from work” situation.
Encourage them also to model open and honest communication and answers with their friend in the same way that they have done with you.
Finally, your client needs to be reminded that the information gained for themselves from both your session with them and those with their friend will assist them to say what is true for them about starting a new business venture and to go with what they feel is right for them no matter how persuasive their friend may be.
You could also suggest another session with your client to allow for any other issues that may have arisen from their meeting with their friend and/or to deal with the result of that meeting which may or may not have gone according to plan.