How to Start a Business With Friends Without Killing the Friendship

How to Start a Business With Friends Without Killing the Friendship

A white wine from Souleil Vin de Bonté.

Courtesy: Souleil Vin de Bonte

Going into business with friends is a lot like going into business with a romantic partner: The pairing can either bring you closer together or ruin the relationship. That risk didn’t deter childhood chums Marianne Fabre-Lanvin and Thomas Delaude, wine industry professionals who this year launched Souleil Vin de Bonté, a trio of organic house wines. In fact, the idea of working together was at the very core of the brand, and they brought on other friends to develop the line’s visual identity and philanthropic mission. Co-founder Marianne Fabre-Lanvin shares her top four tips for doing business with friends—without losing the friendships.

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Fabre-LanvinPHOTOGRAPHER: CHARLES ROUSSEL

Surround yourself with people you love to spend time with.

“Thomas and I are childhood friends, so trust, fun, and camaraderie were already part of our dynamic. It also felt natural to incorporate our network of talented friends living in different places. From production to photography, importation to retail, a vast majority of the people who contribute to the project are like (or actually are) family, and each of them brought their unique expertise. This can save time since you already know how to communicate with each other, you perceive one another’s sensibilities, and you know that everyone’s commitment is genuine.”

Make sure your friends are multitalented

“As a small-business owner, you wear all the hats: accounting, sales, marketing, and more. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin, even if you occasionally outsource various tasks. Ideally, you and your business partner have complementary work experience. Thomas and I have been in the wine industry for a long time, but we have very different skill sets. Thomas is excellent at sourcing the best wines, at production, and in sales. My expertise lies in communication, project management, and in the U.S. wine market. Each of us is responsible for specific tasks, but then we come together on certain aspects of the business, like wine blending. Given that it requires research, intuition, personal taste, and a willingness to listen, it’s the ultimate application of teamwork.”

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DelaudeSOURCE: THOMAS DELAUDE

Learn how to love the chores

“In running a small business, you tend to take on everything, including the less glamorous aspects of the job. It’s like having a cat—you must learn to like removing cat hair from the sofa if you want to enjoy its company. For Souleil, it might fall on me to deal with organic certifications paperwork (not easy!), or upon Thomas to follow production and transportation every step of the way, so the wine arrives safe and sound to the consumer. Each small part of the whole must be done with passion.”

Be sure to speak up

“If you’ve partnered with the right friends, speaking your mind can be easier. When we disagree, we don’t wait to address the issue, because we don’t have a secret agenda. We’re not trying to play Machiavellian tricks to undermine co-workers or climb the ladder—as often happens in larger firms—because there isn’t one. But it’s also because, as friends, we have a naturally benevolent attitude toward one another. We each have our own responsibilities in the business but ultimately share a common goal, working together to find solutions when problems arise. We can act quickly and with agility. This is not only refreshing but a much more effective way to work in a small team. Just be sure you choose your friends wisely!”

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