When friends start a business together, it sounds like the ideal combination of business and private life. But what if that friend doesn't turn out to be the partner you're looking for?
Coolblue. Young Capital. Hyves. All companies that started out of friendships between the founders. It seems the perfect combination: you have known each other for a long time, you come up with an idea and work it out together, hoping for a gap in the market.
Jasper Gabrielse (27) and Melvin Loggies (28) of sustainable detergent Seepje prove that these friendships can sometimes go far back. The two met in the third grade of high school. "When we were chilling together one evening, we saw a documentary about people from Nepal who get soap from natural fabrics. That's where the idea for our company Seepje started."
"Of all the people we knew, we considered each other the most suitable to work together." Jasper Gabrielse
Gabrielse already knew a little bit about his partner. "We had a part-time job together when we were sixteen. Moreover, we went on to study together. You see someone in an environment other than the pub anyway."
He admired Loggies for his drive. "Melvin was much more concerned with high grades at school. I was more enterprising and the creative of the two, but high grades were less interested in me. Of all the people we knew, we considered each other the most capable of working together."
Sometimes a friend turns out to be less suitable
It is an important question that you must ask yourself before you start a business together: how well can we work together? Because having a nice beer with each other on Friday evenings doesn't make a good business partner.
This was also noticed by Ingmar Vroege (29), who started a company in 2012 with two friends. Three months after they had registered with the Chamber of Commerce, he and his friend Gertjan Leemans (29) noticed that the third friend didn't quite fit in with it. "He arrived late, forgot things and had a different way of dealing with customers than we do."
He knew these qualities from his friend, but turned out to match a lot less in a business sense than in a group of friends. A difficult conversation followed, in which it was decided that the third friend had to leave the company.
"It was the most difficult conversation I had in seven years." Ingmar Vroege
Leemans and Vroege then started a company for two: Safeguard. "It was the most difficult conversation I had in seven years", Vroege looks back. "Because you don't want to hurt your friend, but you can't go on this way."
The three, who are part of a larger group of friends, did not speak to each other for a year, but now they see each other again daily. "It was also a wake-up call for him about his own behavior. He understood what we meant, but of course it wasn't fun."
He advises friends starting a business to be prepared for situations like this. "You start full of enthusiasm and do not want to think negatively, but it is good to keep a clear record of who does what and what happens if things go wrong."
"Communication is sometimes more important than in a friendship"
Gabrielse van Seepje adds that communication is the most important thing within a company. "Perhaps even more important than in a friendship. You are sometimes inclined to cover things with the mantle of love, because it is your friend. But in a business relationship you also have to be able to point out shortcomings to each other."
"In a business relationship you also have to be able to point out shortcomings to each other." Jasper Gabrielse
According to Gabrielse, the fact that this sometimes happens is easier because of the friendship. "I can be quite steadfast and perfectionist. If Melvin tells me that, I take it more seriously than if someone else would say that. I know he knows me very well."
Talk about money
Another pitfall that must be avoided is that of finance. In addition to the usual Tikkies, you are often not used to talking about money with friends. But if a successful company goes wrong, how do you divide that?
Asked: "We had kept track of all hours, so as a starting company it was still easy to split up." If Seepje's founders were to separate, it would be a lot more difficult. "There have been so many investment rounds in the meantime. That is now accompanied by a lot of interests."
Nevertheless, Gabrielse maintains that he did not want to start a business with anyone else. "We see each other two or three times a week outside the office. Working out together, a beer in the pub. Ultimately, it makes our company stronger."