Can Friends and Business Mix?

An article wrote by Technology and Human quoted the following sentence “Friendship is better for business than business is better for friendship”

We’re all aware of the term “Don’t mix business with pleasure” (and by pleasure here we mean friends) why is that? Some business tycoons had the following statements about what in meant for them to go into business with friends, not all of them were bad however but in the end the ugly outweighed the beauty this time.

A business is run by people. That is a fact but the sole purpose of most successful companies is to create revenue for their shareholders. Business interest and people’s interests are two completely different things.

C. Behrenbruch a successful innovator and financing partner says that even though he’s had some great brainstorms with close colleges and friends he still considers mixing business with friendships exceedingly difficult. In reality he explains that we as humans will do things for our friends to the extent that they’re above our own interest but (it’s a fact and a completely natural one at that) in business you have to defend your own fort first.

At some point in order to deliver in a successful business and respond to change all relationships get stained – call it thinking with your heart instead of your head. Friendships create expectations of people that are not derived from performance outcomes; hence a natural incompatibility (like for instance when partners say “we’ve been experiencing some creative differences”)


Matthew Rana, a journalist for Forbes online blog says that “When times are good and the friendship is strong hammer out the sticky ownership issues early on”

An impeccable example of someone who had to choose between friendship and business was Steve Jobs, the inventor of Apple. He strived toward success and according to him the team of friends that started the company with him in the back of their Jobs’ parent garage, were holding him back. He want perfection and while they wanted simplicity. Their “creative difference” were too strong and Jobs ended up alienating a lot of people close to him but ended up running a very successful company if the not the most successful to date.

Robert Wynman and Salim Ismail did not follow Rana’s advice either and their company BubSub, an immediate hit amongst investors, fell through the cracks because the two mates could not agree on how to go forward. The network would make money by running searches on behalf of companies.


The conflict: Wynman says that Ismail wasn’t willing to dilute his ownership stake to raise more capital, while Ismail says that Wynman was too prickly and impetuous for investors to work with. Needless to say the company filed for bankruptcy in the end and the friendship has not yet been restored.

Google, Yahoo and Boston Scientific are but a few large companies launched by friends who took a chance on working together. Proving that it can be done! It’s important to know which role belongs to whom.

When you enter the office you can’t be an emotional sponge a business is a head and mind focus game and if you’re optimistic enough that you can make it work then by all means go for it. But remember there may come a time where you have to choose between what’s best for the business and what’s best for your relationship.

Success breeds its own dissent which is why it’s important to anticipate every scenario.

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