Running a business is hard. Running a business with your best friend can be even harder. Emily and I have known each other for over a decade, and we used to agree on everything: candy was an acceptable dinner, badminton was better than going to prom, and curling your hair with a straightener was way cooler than doing so with a curling iron. As we grew up, we still agreed on pretty much everything: the fact that we wanted to dedicate our lives to helping others, the belief that the right outfit can change your mood, and that boys are stupid (just kidding-sort of). But making decisions as business partners isn't the same as deciding you're both wearing skinny jeans to the party. 

On a daily basis we are making decisions that affect our brand, our product, our finances, our employees, and our customers. That is a tremendous amount of responsibility, and is something that both of us take very seriously. We both have very different professional backgrounds, different courses of study, and different physical surroundings. This leads to distinct, individualized perspectives. In a small business setting, we have found it often proves helpful to have contrasting ideas. We are then the sounding boards for one another and are capable of fleshing out multiple possibilities. 

When we first started By Grace, I was adamant that the business should be a nonprofit. I figured that was the only way to preserve the integrity of our mission and hoped donations would help to finance our dreams. Emily thought a corporation or LLC would be best, so that we could function as a normal fashion company that happened to work ethically. We had the same overall vision, but our paths to success differed. Ultimately, after a solid six months of negotiating, we decided to do both. Bold, I know. But have you ever had a friend that you trusted more than your own instincts? That's how we feel about one another. And so we built a hybrid model. By Grace Designs is our LLC (the website you're on now), and The By Grace Foundation is our 501c3 non-profit (website coming soon). 

This is just one of many circumstances where Emily and I have learned to compromise, and we aren't finished with the learning process. There are days that we are frustrated with one another and days that we are so in sync it is borderline creepy, but every day we come together to make the decisions that are best for our company and our long term vision. 

So why am I rambling on about our petty disagreements and differences? Because they're not petty to us. They're life changing. Someone asked me at a recent networking event what my advice to young entrepreneurs would be? My response was to go into business with someone you trust; trust their capability, their integrity, and their dependability. Emily started as my friend and we have recently transitioned into even more than that: we're business partners. I trust her and she trusts me. We rarely agree in the beginning of a conversation, but through refined listening skills, constant communication, and the ability to shift perspectives we are making decisions together that are wiser than if we were making them separately. 

How can you apply this to your own small business? 1. Listen more than you talk. 2. Be willing to defend your opinions with facts and/ or fair reasoning, but be willing to negotiate. 3. Ask questions of your partner. (Communicate incessantly.) 4. Establish a clear vision for where you see your company; this will give you guidelines for all your decision making. 5. Remember that you are not alone. Two heads are better than one.

Running a business with your best friend may not be easy, but it is certainly worthwhile. Henry Ford was once said, "Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." We wholeheartedly agree. 

Until next time,