Like many great friendships, it started at the bottom of a bottle of prosecco.  Marjan and I met working in the same team within a large corporate organisation and we instantly connected.  We found that we were on the same page when it came to our values, our aspirations and importantly, our sense of humour!  As two confident and successful women working within a supportive corporate organisation we thrived and would celebrate highs and lows together, and champion one another as we progressed our careers, slowly moving up the corporate ladder. Whilst working within a large organisation offered us both opportunity and structure, we each had a level of creativity and curiosity which meant that, deep down, we knew that we were not destined to continue our careers in corporate life.  We knew after just a few years of working together that we would one day start a business together, in fact, before we created Captivate, we had several other business ideas in the pipeline, some of which almost made it to the stage of being real, viable propositions before being shelved because we realised they didn’t truly align with our purpose.

Over a decade later and our company is now almost three years old, we have left the corporate world behind and are loving being Co-Founders of our thriving startup Coaching and Consulting business.  We’ve had a few bumps along the road but overwhelmingly the experience has been incredibly positive so far and we are both so excited to see what the future holds for our business. 

So for now, for those of you considering starting a business with your best buddy, I wanted to share 7 practical tips that will help you succeed in not only making your business work but, crucially, ensuring your friendship not only survives, but thrives!

  1. Get a real, deep understanding of each other’s strengths – now I’m not talking surface level strengths and weaknesses here, I’m talking about getting a true understanding of why your bestie is how she/he is.  Knowing not only what they’re great at, but also why, is important for several reasons. Quite frankly, in the early days at least, you’ll each need to roll your sleeves up and undertake roles that you may not have considered before (we used to joke that, amongst other roles, I was the CITO and CMO and Marjan was the CFO and CRO!) therefore knowing exactly what you’re both naturally great at will make sharing out those jobs as easy as pie. As a result of this you’ll each be spending more time working on stuff you’re already good at, and research has shown that people who spend time every day using their strengths are 6 x more likely to feel engaged with their work and 3 x more likely to report having an outstanding quality of life!* You’ll quickly spot where you might have gaps or blindspots and therefore where you might need to bring in a specific skillset
  2. Rock the Retros!  Schedule time at least once a month to reflect back on the previous month and talk openly about what has gone well, and of course what you can learn from what has not gone so well.  Of course you’ll be making real time course corrections throughout the month and giving eachother feedback as and when it’s appropriate, but there is something really powerful about putting aside a block of time each month to truly reflect and be honest with yourselves and each other.
  3. Consider your unique perspectives – although we are similar in terms of our values, we have very different realities and therefore we approach tasks and communications very differently.  This is something we discovered early on – we’ve learnt that different words hold slightly different meanings for each of us, which is down to our unique perspectives and judgement of language – take time to notice and learn about each other’s experiences and perspectives in order to gain a deeper understanding of one another as it will really aid your communication.
  4. Remember that you are a TEAM! Make sure you make a point to celebrate your successes together and champion one another along the way.  You are not in competition with each other, don’t lose sight of the fact that you share a dream and a mission – this is hugely powerful!
  5. Remember that your friendship is an asset – you have built an amazing level of trust, where you have likely created a psychologically safe environment which means that levels of innovation should be sky rocketing.  You already understand and read each other’s cues so you will naturally bounce off one another – channel that great energy and make the most of it, it will set you apart from other business owners!
  6. Be assured that you won’t always get it right – in the early days when you are still building your team you will be wearing lots of hats, cut each other some slack and show compassion and kindness because, at the end of the day, your business is built on the foundations of a solid friendship and it’s really important to nurture that friendship over time, particularly when going through challenging times (like, an unprecedented pandemic!)
  7. We know from speaking to peers just how lonely Entrepreneurship can be – making it work as a duo means you’ll never feel that way as you’ll basically be going to work with your bestie every day!  So tip number 7 is Don’t forget to have fun!  Remember why you’re friends in the first place and make sure you make time every day to catch up, chat as friends and generally have fun whilst you work.  Schedule your strategy or planning days where you can tie it in with something you enjoy doing – we sometimes book a day at the spa for a change of scene and a reboot where we can let those creative juices flow and bounce ideas around whilst we lounge around after a swim or a workout!

And, as promised, the one key ingredient to success?  Grown up, HONEST and open dialogue.  Never assume – keep asking open questions until you’re certain you’re both on the same page – the beauty of this kind of communication is that you can really accelerate both your personal and business growth because you’re each getting real time feedback from someone who is ALREADY on your side!

*Source – Gallup, 2020