Tying the partnership knot

In today’s unstable corporate environment, many people are leaving their jobs and pooling in ideas and resources with their friends to become entrepreneurs. While experts say mixing friendship and business is a terrible concept ‘because either you won’t be in business or you won’t be friends’, not every partnership between friends falls irretrievably apart.

Jeanne Saldanha has been friends and business partners with Lorna Mathias running an interior design business together very successfully for the last 27 years. Six years ago, she and another friend Lalitha Shahani opened a store selling high-end home and personal accessories. Her two partners are the closest people in her life. “Clear and direct communication is the key to a fruitful friendship and partnership. We have a legal document stating we are partners but everything else is based on trust and honesty. Any misunderstanding is cleared up strictly between ourselves without the interference of a third party. We capitalise on each other’s strengths and never take each other for granted,” says Jeanne. But then again not every partnership/friendship has a happy ending.

Vasanti (name changed) went into the event management/realty business with a friend and lived to regret it. “We did a few events together successfully but she was a back-stabbing, dishonest trouble-maker from the word go, masking her real nature under a sugary sweet mask. She stole my contacts, tried to ruin my close friendships and  I ultimately ended up out of pocket and emotionally traumatised,” she says bitterly.It has been five years and the two have never spoken since.

Ritu and Rochana were friends who shared a passion for fashion and have started their own design label together in the City. “We worked and lived in different countries. When I moved to Bangalore and toyed with the idea of starting a design studio I approached Rochana. We mulled it over for a bit and decided to give it a shot. We have been working together for some time now and it’s been very productive,” says Ritu.

Those who are successful at merging friendship and business say that it’s crucial to explore issues before ‘tying the partnership knot’. Work habits and work ethics between partners should be compatible enough to keep the partnership fair to all concerned. Issues like time off, money to be invested and  expectations of returns should also be carefully discussed and settled. Lay out specific roles and responsibilities and know when to turn on and off business and friendship. Nip any problems in the bud with constant communication.

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