Some say “never work with friends.” But three friends decided to do it anyway and become business partners.
By Nina Zavrieva (Co-Founder, Channelkit)
Our project Channelkit grew out of a common pain my friends and co-founders were experiencing.
I was working in management consulting and facing an ongoing struggle to properly structure the massive amount of market research I had been doing. There were industry reports, company profiles, interviews, numerous articles — all of which I had to reuse and reference as source and share with the rest of the team. I found no better solution than storing all links in Excel, which did not seem like an obvious solution.
Lisa and Lara were at this time creating an information architecture bureau and were facing a similar issue of their own. They were collecting links to reference projects, designers, articles and books on theory of design and information architecture and were looking for a tool to collect and organize all this information.
We were constantly complaining to each other about this and almost as a joke we started to count all other things we wanted to organize: places for trips, books we want to read, music videos and lots more. And how good it would be to discover similar collections from people we cared about. We started to want a tool like this so much that we decided to actually build it.
What Makes it Work for Us
I’ve heard a lot of arguments against starting a business with friends, but we seem to have found a pretty good working dynamic. We’ve been through hard times when we started — from basically throwing away the first version of Channelkit that we had worked on for half a year because it was too complicated to being let down by investors — yet we kept pushing and grew even closer.
These are the elements to our partnership that help us work so well together:
1. We Have Complementary Skills
All three of us come from very different professional backgrounds. We leverage and complement each other’s skills. I’m responsible for the business side of things as well as communication with customers, investors and partners. Lisa is managing product development and design. Lara goes deep into detail of Channelkit’s product architecture and is controlling operations and financial reporting.
We consult with each other on most issues, but the decision lies with whoever is responsible for a particular block of work. We also really enjoy our respective streams of work, so there’s rarely any competition.
2. We Take Advantage of Our Differences
Although we’re very close, the three of us have different attitudes towards a lot of things: Perfectionism, spending, risk, mass vs. niche, social vs non-social etc.
When we’re releasing a new version of the product, there’s always a heated debate between releasing a version out as soon as possible to making it perfect or whether to assign a budget to test out a new marketing channel or go for the proven one.
We usually go for a weighted option in many situations like these. I rarely regret the decisions we make.
3. We Understand Each Other’s Strengths and Weaknesses
We’ve worked with each other before: Lisa and I created an online magazine 10 years ago, and Lisa and Lara founded their office together, so we already know where one may experience difficulties and we try to back each other up.
From attention to detail in the documents or products we work with to emotions, we react differently to stress and know when to support each other
4. We Laugh — A Lot
There are so many things that can go wrong in a startup every day. But even in the toughest situations, we make jokes. Usually the problems become a lot less overwhelming.
The different skills and personalities the three of us have give us the opportunity to continuously learn a lot from each other and come up with solutions we wouldn’t reached on our own. Building a business is hard, but doing it with great friends who know and support each other makes it so much more fun.