Love is in the air! And a food business is in the plans. What happens when you start a food business with your significant other or best friend? How do you manage the relationship while managing a business? And how do you ensure profits don’t get in the way of the promise of friendship and partnership? Members of Hudson Kitchen’s community share their stories about how they have successfully joined someone they care about in a culinary business adventure.
Tip #1. Be Honest About Your Relationship. It may seem like a fun idea to go into business with your best friend, but when tough times come or hard decisions need to be made you may wish that you hadn’t. Take the time to ask yourself: Does your friend have a skill set that will be beneficial to the business? Do they complement your business personality and style? Do you trust your potential partner? Are you comfortable having difficult conversations with them? Do they share your vision for the company?
“Be honest about your relationship with that person. Just because you have fun together doesn't mean you should run a business! Any issues you have on a regular basis will be amplified by the stress of business.” — Lisi Vasquez, Midnight Market
Tip #2. Create a Business Plan Together. Developing a business plan together will allow you and your partner to create a roadmap to your company’s success. The plan will outline your target market and competitive set, how the business will operate, what products or services you will offer as well as your pricing strategy and financial projections. You will be able to put KPIs or key performance indicators in place that will help to keep you on track.
Learn more about how to create a food business plan.
Tip #3. Formalize Your Partnership. Treat the business relationship with your significant other just like you would any other business relationship. This means agreeing upon the vision and overall direction for your company. And it also means putting things in writing. It may not be romantic, but it will serve as a reference point if there is less love and more stress in the business relationship. You also will need to decide the role that each of you will play and your financial responsibilities as well as how the business will be managed day-to-day. And don’t forget to include how a buyout or dissolution of the business will be handled. Work with an attorney to develop the appropriate partnership or operating agreement.
Tip #4. Define Your Roles. Your food business will run more efficiently if you take the time to determine who will handle what tasks. Take the time to list out your needs — product development, sales and marketing, production, etc. and assign tasks to each person based on their desire, time available, and skill set. Keep in mind that one of you may need to take a class to get up to speed on a specific task like managing your business finances. Or you may need to hire contractors to help overcome your weaknesses. Be sure to put everything in writing and to determine the best way to communicate decisions so that both of you are on the same page. And make time to meet as business partners to regularly discuss roles and business-related progress.
“Define your roles but stay flexible as those change over time. Also, being transparent, cooperative and decisive about money is important.”
— Jill Sabochick, Jersey City Fish Stand
Tip #5. Keep Things Separate. Make an effort to separate your business relationship from your personal relationship. Don’t let arguments about household chores creep into the business. A few ideas to help maintain your relationship include:
Always use first names when interacting in a business setting
Keep regular business hours or set a time frame when discussions about the business are off limits
Schedule formal meetings to discuss business in a business setting—just like you would if you were working with anyone else
Use business email to communicate about the company and save the more intimate conversations for your personal email or text messages
Maintain separate home and business finances
Make time for the personal relationship. There is a reason you and your partner got together in the first place; don’t forget to cultivate that friendship and love.
Starting and thriving in your food business can be hard, yet rewarding. You will want to celebrate your achievements with those you love and find a shoulder to cry on when challenges arise. Having your best friend or romantic partner by your side, in the day-to-day trenches can mean you are building a business with someone you care about the most. The key to long-term success is knowing when and how to keep things strictly business, and when to focus on the relationship outside of the business. Sometimes this is easier said than done but preserving your relationship should be the ultimate goal.