Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friends in business - a good or bad idea?


You know, I've been warned that being in - or creating a business with - friends doesn't work.

That chances of emotional upheaval and failure escalate when friends go into business, become business partners or even work together closely in the same office. There are even statistics that "prove" this.

Imagine my surprise and rapture when I read Tom Rath's book - Vital Friends!

Turns out that in fact not "just" friends - but best friends - make the most desirable, fitting and thriving work teams possible!

That is, people with whom you not only work, but care about, support, hang out with, socialize, know each other's families, confide in, are there for one another, know you "have each other's backs," and mostly, can count on to be freely honest.

I realized I've done this - worked with people I consider best friends - and I agree!

While we have worked on some of our relationship and communications "issues" over the years, knowing the friendship is solid and steadfast, and that we can fearlessly share anything with one another, trusting each comes from a genuinely caring place has made a magnificent and rewarding difference.

Now, you needn't be the boss to have a happy, successful livelihood with a best friend. Rath points out the key here is that a genuinely best friend - not a casual or even a "good" friend - is involved.

Rath has ties to the Gallup Organization - which surveys opinions about anything and everything worldwide, with a well-respected reputation for being objective about social research.

Here's what he discovered when they researched the broad subject of the economic and emotional impact of friendships on the job:

If you have a best friend at work, you are significantly more likely to:

*engage your customers
*get more done in less time
*have fun on the job
*have a safer workplace with fewer accidents
*innovate and share new ideas
*feel informed and know your opinion counts
*have the opportunity to focus on your strengths each day

As well as seven times as likely to be engaged in your work!

Probably (my thought) because you enjoy going and being there. My experience is that it's a joy to work with a friend - that magic can be created with even a more casual friend who has complimentary skills - but that joy is escalated several times over when we are best friends.

Interestingly, the research shows that only 30% of people polled have a best friend at work - and that without a best friend, chances of being engaged in your job (focused, excited, innovative, participating, finding it rewarding) are only 1 in 12.

Hmmm - Interesting. That's the exact statistic I've heard about about "friends going in business together" - just friends - who succeed: fewer than 10%.

The reason Rath wrote the book is that so many companies, including those considered successful (on paper) actually discourage close relationships between coworkers because of what turns out to be (overall) a myth about people with deep, caring friendships - causing problems in the workplace.

As their research shows - clearly and repeatedly - the truth is exactly the opposite: you and your business will thrive if you're collaborating with your best friend because maintaining that closeness - along with your business or job - is a priority!

A friend tells me that her dad and his best friend have been - happily and successfully - in business for 25 years. In fact, they just opened yet another branch of their enterprise because they continue to love what they do and grow - individually and industrially.

She says their personal lives and families are "positively intertwined," that they all really like or love each other and that the closeness of the business partners is "almost like a second marriage."

More, she says, "everyone around them has enjoyed the benefits of their working and personal relationship. Their skills and strengths compliment each other. Each has his own special talents."

She adds that it's downright entertaining to be around them.

I wonder which comes first: the best friendship or the working relationship? I've been a best friend first before we worked together successfully and worked with someone closely - successfully - who became a best friend.

In both cases, we consistently worked on relationship and communication skills to make certain each of us felt heard, appreciated and like a priority in each other's lives.

Note that this information does not cover office romances!


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