Seven tips for going into business with friends

Oliver Bell tells the secret of how he and best friend Ravi manage to maintain their camaraderie despite working together in a high-pressure, 24/7 environment

It was a holiday that planted the seeds of a business idea in the head of Oliver Bell.

Fresh out of university, Oliver went on holiday with his best friend Ravi to a crumbling chateau in the Dordogne with a group of other pals. Together they came up with the basic idea for their first business, Simply Chateau - a website where people could find and book exclusive, luxury villas without having to shell out a fortune.

Since rebranded as Oliver's Travels, they now employ more than 25 staff to help them recommend quirky, lavish, one-of-a-kind places to stay - not just in France, but across Europe and the Caribbean.

But are they still friends? Yes they are, as well as 50/50 shareholders. Here are his seven tips for success.

1. Put the ground rules in place

One of the most important things you can do when going into business with a friend is make sure that you establish clear ground rules and put everything in writing before you start.

You don't need to get all heavy on the legal stuff before you have even launched - but it's very helpful to agree on the key business structure, vision and processes before you get going.

2. Create a clear protocol for resolving conflicts

Going into business with a close friend can throw up many unexpected situations, but one of the most important things we have done is to set us a clear protocol for resolving conflicts. We are both very easy-going and we respect each other a lot - but sometimes it's just useful to have a plan in place should any major business decisions throw up a disagreement.

3. Always remain open and honest

Never assume that your business partner will always feel the same way about key business matters as you do, just because you are friends. Clear, open and honest communication is key, and you need to set aside time to have conversations to ensure that you continually remain on the same page.

4. Trust one another

You may feel that trusting your best friend is quite similar to trusting your business partner, but this isn't the case. We know our friends have our best interests at heart, but when it comes to business, it's really important that you also trust their judgement - especially when it comes to their key specialities. We can't all be experts at everything.

5. Agree on an end goal before you even get started

It may seem a bit doom and gloom to talk exit strategies before you have even begun! But it's really important that you align your expectations when it comes to how you will build the business, how you will run it and how you will eventually leave it.

If you don't agree these fundamental strategies, then without a doubt it will lead to conflict down the line.

6. Don't be afraid to go against the odds

You hear so many stories about people who have gone into business with friends where it has all ended up going terribly wrong. My advice would be ?Don't listen to them'.

If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you often have to beat the odds and embrace learning experiences disguised as failures along the way - so just go for it!

7. Never go into business with someone just because they are your friend

Finally, it's really important that you ask yourself honestly - are you just starting a business with your friend because they are your friend? If your choice of start-up partner isn't fundamentally based on sound business sense, the whole venture is doomed to failure.

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