When a Business Partner is Also a Friend: Why it Could Work


Today, Toots, Booger and I head to Los Angeles to visit my business partner, but we’re not traveling for work. Instead, we’re planning some fun hang-out time because my partner and I are good friends, too. And as we set our social agenda for the week, I reflected back to when Jess and I decided to collaborate on a few projects that became full-blown endeavors and one, a business. It was last year around July when Jess pitched the Two Funny Brains idea to me and I hemmed and hawed and resisted because I’d known too many such ventures fail due to bad personality dynamics, mistrust, and jealousy. In fact, I’d been warned to never start a business with a friend and just had come off the heels of seeing one such something or other blow up, causing much tension and general crapitude.


As a result, I was hesitant to bring more possible implosion into my life. I reached out to friends and supporters and asked for their opinions, which ended up mixed and ranged from “DON’T DO IT” to “If you trust each other, it could work.” So I checked my gut and moved forward. Soon enough, we formed our partnership, ordered business cards, took conference calls, and made our first few videos. We were off.


Pretty much. I mean, you might know what it’s like to start a new business. Ups and downs. And with a partner? It’s a marriage, it really is. Yet I have to tell you that Jess and I are good. Really excellent. Our issues are aired immediately, we advocate for each other, and creatively enhance the other.


To that end, I’ve wanted to write for awhile now about the reasons we work, but I worried it would come across as pedantic and obvious. However, I list the below enabling factors because they helped me lay it out and see in black and white why I made the right decision to join forces with Jess. If you’re thinking of starting something with a friend, maybe some of what I describe here will help you check your own gut.


The below is why it works for Jess and I.


1. Your strengths and weaknesses complement each other.

I know. No shit. But when you see this in action, it’s sublime. I am a processor, thinker, drag-my-heeler. I have ideas, but don’t execute as much as I should. Jessica is a doer, an executer, a pull-the-triggerer (I just made her sound like a murderer). So when I say to Jess, “OK, let me process that,” she says “You have two hours.” As a result, crap gets done. On the flip side, if Jess wants to proceed too quickly, I put the brakes on and bring up a few reasons we might want to slow down. Luckily, we have the ability to see the logic and usefulness in both approaches to life and put it to work for our company.


2. You share a vision and a passion.

Here’s the thing with this. The vision will vary, the passion will ebb and flow, but in the down times, if you can remind each other of what they both are — and why you started the company in the first place — it goes a long way. Jess and I are both creatives, and we like to laugh. We’ve also been blogging a long time and Jess knows video production inside and out, while I have ad/PR experience. Yes this goes back to “use your respective strengths,” but also helps set the foundation for what you’re doing. We’d both observed companies market to social media folks completely ineffectively and knew there was a different way. We used what we liked — humor — and what we knew — blogging, video, advertising — to start something that could market in a way that actually captured attention. That was the vision. The passion? Our creativity. Those are our bedrocks and touchstones. THOSE never vary.


3. You trust your partner’s motivation and agenda.

Jess is the first person for whom I can without hesitation say the above (other than my husband). I’ve withdrawn from some projects because I don’t trust the people involved. Some of my mistrust was based on my instinct, and some borne by observation. (Let me insert here that if someone acts one way in public, but another way behind the scenes, that’s a huge tip-off.) (Also, you can tell a lot about people based on how they treat those who can’t do anything for them.) Jess is what-you-see-is-what-you-get. She’s completely transparent. She asks for what she wants and she tells you why. I don’t worry that she’s manipulating matters behind my back, or “in it” for anything other than what she says — She knows we’re onto something here and she wants to go for it. Me too.


4. You both say what you mean and mean what you say.

Jess is so much better than I at this…because I still worry too much what people think of me. Yet, if Jess is mad at me? She tells me. If she is irritated over something? I hear about it RIGHT AWAY. It doesn’t fester and become an elephant in the room and create avoidable tension. She encourages me to tell her everything I’m thinking and holding back even if I think she’ll get pissed. And sometimes she does get pissed, but it’s handled immediately. When it comes to women like me who are so used to withholding feelings because she doesn’t want to upset someone? This is partnership gold. In fact, I think it’s a huge success factor, if not the most critical.


4. You set aside the personal need to “be right” and stay open to what’s best for the partnership and/or project.

Another so-important criterion. Ego ruins things. It inserts itself into a relationship and eats its brain. I think in a marriage they call it, “You’d rather be right than happy.” In this case, Jess and I would rather have the project be as excellent as possible and we don’t have time for ego. So when Jessica tells me my script wasn’t funny, I either make my case or say “OK, let’s start over.” When I tell Jess that an edit needs to be made tighter, even after she’s spent four weeks already editing, she does it. We make the other better, because we listen and are willing to HEAR. Most importantly, we make the project better.


5. You respect each other, and believe in each other’s talent.

Another obvious one, I know. It’s worth stating though because while simple, it’s true and bears repeating like the most simple and true things do. I believe in Jess’s talent. I know she will keep going until we get it right. I respect that she won’t give up when the going gets tough. I try to tell her these things often, but more often she tells me. She is always, always reiterating that she thinks I’m talented, that I can “DO THIS” and that is the secret sauce, when used collaboratively, that makes it all work.


I realize that dynamics, values, work styles and personalities differ. You might not admire or respond to the same things I do in a business partner, but there are some no-brainers that are universal.


And if this sounds like a love letter to Jess, it is.


In a work-y kind of way, with a heaping dose of “I love her as a person” platonic passion.


17 Responses to “When a Business Partner is Also a Friend: Why it Could Work”

  1. Trish says:

    Awesome. So happy for you both. Wishing you both much success. In business and life.

  2. So glad your partnership is one of the good ones! Sounds like you are working hard to make/keep it that way–not always an easy endeavor, but definitely a worth while one. I am looking forward to seeing/hearing/reading what the two of you come up with!

  3. This is so refreshing. I think the reason your partnership is so strong stems from your passion. Simply put: you both love what you do. Congratulations!

  4. I’m so glad you said yes- you and Jessica make an awesome team! From what I’ve seen you’re off to a great start, and I hope your business lights on fire. Or starts on fire? Gets a fire lit? I’m terrible with sayings, but you know what I mean :-)

  5. Alexandra says:

    It takes maturity and putting on the big girl panties, doesn’t it?

    Jess is a treasure. Such a gifted, inspirational, creative woman. She is kind, caring, and has a heart of gold.

    I’m so happy she found someone to work with, as well.

    Best of luck to you both, and I really do mean that, from the bottom of my heart.

  6. Me says:

    This is great! How exciting! Best to you guys!!

  7. becky says:

    That part about watching how someone treats people who can’t do anything for them? SPOT ON.

    Also, I love you & Jess dearly and am rooting SO HARD for you both. This was awesome & beautiful. You did a fantastic job of putting this into words. :*

  8. […] by yesterday, please describe your connection with your partner, be he/she/it be a spouse, colleague, or […]

  9. Suzy says:

    My business partner Leslie and I worked together for 8 years. One of her strengths was asking for jobs and lots of money. One of mine was letting her.

  10. Add in regular sex and you pretty much just described my marriage.

    Go, girls.

  11. Birdrockfab says:

    It’s kismet you were brought together! Heartfelt congratulations on your partnership and business.

  12. I’m so glad that you ventured into the Two Funny Brains business! You two are such an inspiration :) Although, I never see you nearly enough! xoxo

  13. Mama Mary says:

    So glad things are working out with you and Jess. I love your list above and I think the last one is really key. Respecting and trusting in your partner is huge. Can’t wait to work with you guys later this month.

  14. Ann says:

    I love this and you both.

  15. I think that if you can express all this in such an articulate way that you two have what it takes to be da bomb!!! best of luck!!

  16. Jessica says:

    Deb,it is an honor to work with you. You are the ying to my yang, the peanut butter to my jelly, the carrots to my ranch dressing….

    okay, stopping now.

    I adore you and I’m truly blessed to have such an amazing friend and partner.

  17. Nicole says:

    I’m so excited for you two. Best wishes!!!

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