A Beginner's Guide To Starting A Business With Your Best Friend
When Tania Alaee got engaged in 2015, she didn’t just say yes to a new chapter of her life, but a whole new business, too.
Her best friend, Gloria Gammo, had helped Tania’s then-boyfriend orchestrate a picture-perfect proposal, which in turn sparked a brilliant business idea: creating luxury proposal experiences for couples in Australia and beyond. A few excited coffee dates later, My Proposal Co. was born.
Having already worked together on luxury events around the world, Gloria and Tania knew their friendship could survive the daily grind. But starting a business with your bestie takes working together to whole new level.
We asked the pair to share their advice for navigating the startup world without losing the friendship.
Make sure you have “the talk”
While Tania and Gloria were confident they could work well together, they say their smooth sailing as business partners is the result of a few frank conversations in those crucial early days.
“When we were putting our business plan together, we talked about what Gloria was interested in most and what I was more interested in, and what she didn’t like doing and what I didn’t like doing,” Tania explains.
Getting crystal clear about what they expected of each other and their roles in the business meant no crossed lines when the pressure was on.
Know your strengths
That initial talk made it easy for the duo to divide duties. “I think you need to sit down and discuss your strengths and weaknesses with each other, and be self-aware enough to know what they are, because while you have a partnership there’s no way you’re both going to be working on every part of the business. It doesn’t make sense to do that,” Tania says.
“We work on completely opposite sides of the business,” adds Gloria. “Right at the beginning, I told Tania, ‘I don’t want to be planning proposals.’ I know that sounds silly for a proposal planning company, but that’s just not what I was interested in! So Tania looks after all our clients and the proposal planning. And I look after all our marketing, PR, social media, finances and collaborations with suppliers.”
“I think the reason we work so well is that we have the same values, but in terms of strengths and skills, we’re very different,” Tania says. “Gloria covers what I lack and I think I do the same for her.”
Flag your stresses
Working on separate sides of the business could make it easy for one partner to feel the strain more than the other, and resent it. To dodge this scenario, the buddies have made a point of speaking up when they’re overwhelmed.
“We have regular planning days, where we sit down and go through both sides of the business so we know where we’re at,” Gloria explains. “If Tania needs help at any time, I’m there for her, but it’s up to her to tell me what she needs help with—I’m not going to read her mind. And at the same time, if I need her to do anything from my list, then I ask her to help me and she’ll always step in. It’s a really good set-up.”
Don’t let disagreements derail you
The pair might be a great business match, but that doesn’t mean they don’t disagree occasionally. And when they do?
“We either talk about it or we park it,” Gloria says. “Parking an issue is a really good thing—we could be really busy and I’ll say, ‘Alright, why don’t we talk about it on the weekend’. That way we have time to think about it and we can allocate actual time to problem-solving it rather than arguing about it.”
If parking the issue doesn’t work, they call in their business coach to help them settle on a solution. “We engaged a business coach not just to help with everyday business dealings, but also for times when we have completely different views on how something should run,” Tania says. “It really helps to have a third opinion!”
Invest in the friendship
The best part of going into business with a friend? They’ve got your back when times are tough.
“I have another business on my own, which can be quite lonely,” says Gloria, “so for me, I’m just so glad we’re in it together, especially when we come up against issues.”
“It’s quite therapeutic to talk to someone about what’s going on,” Tania adds. “I don’t think I could do this business on my own.”
But like any relationship, it’s healthy to have boundaries, so Tania and Gloria make sure they still spend quality time together as friends, not business partners. “We’re planning a trip at the end of the year together, not a work-related trip, with our husbands,” Tania says.
“And we’ll go out to dinners together and sometimes we’ll get together on Sundays and although it seems like we’re there to work or strategize, half the time we sit there and chat about our personal life over a coffee! We’ve definitely maintained the friendship element of our relationship as well.”
Words: Penny Carroll
Photo: Daria Kobayashi Ritch