It is 2 a.m.For the past five hours I have been purchasing new stock for Runway Street (RWS) and my nerves are rattled.I am tired and exhausted; I look over to the person next to me and its Anisha, my business partner.Without verbal expression she goes to YouTube, types in one of my favourite songs and instantly we both burst out singing; I am refreshed for at least another two hours. She read me and knew that I was about to throw in the towel. She read me and knew this, not because our names appear side by side as Directors of RWS, but because we have stood side by side, as friends for over ten years. People often say friends and business don’t work. My response is why not?
Friendship in business will work if building personal relationships is the foundation of your organization’s success… and it ought to be.
Long gone are the days when consumers were enticed simply by clever advertising gimmicks or quick sales. Today, they demand qualities such as trust and flexibility in their brands; characteristics too of a solid friendship. If you see creating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with your suppliers, customers and business associates as being crucial to your firm’s success, then doing the same with your business friend is suckeye. Endeavoring to keep your friendship intact despite business disputes is the best practice to keeping your business relationships going despite mitigating circumstances. It is like a marriage.
Of course for some there is safety in adopting the philosophy of never mixing business with pleasure. With some friends this is the only way, and we all know who they are. You know just who I am talking about; the one you paid last Christmas to re-do the closetsin your house, yet you are still waiting, or that other one who took ten tickets to the fete you threw in 2007, and still ducking whenever they see you in Movie Towne. The truth is we all know them, but here’s the thing in running a business – especially a startup. Success comes from assembling the best team you can. So who cares if the people that share your passion are the same people you palance with in Zen every Friday.If you never take risks, you’ll never gain the best of both worlds – a friend in life and a friend at the bargaining table.
The fear of taking risks alongside one’s friend didn’t stop Larry Page and Sergey Brin, university associates who admittedly couldn’t stand each other early on in their friendship, from founding Google 12 years ago. Nor did it stop Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield whose bravado dream of creating homemade ice-cream in rural Vermont spiraled into the multimillion-dollar empire known as Ben and Jerry’s today. It has not stopped thousands of people globally, who consider the possibilities of starting partnerships with friends or even family every year, and it certainly has not stopped me.
My friendship with Anisha underpins Runway Street. It colours our fashion offering, but more importantly it dictates our brand’s personality.After ten years we know each other very well. We know how the other will react in certain situations, and what we both like and dislike. We split the business evenly, but understand that sometimes one puts in more than the other.We have allowed each other to grow, and have accommodated each other’s personal goals within the business. There are no egos, which is one of the biggest advantages of having someone I know, trust and respect share both the excitement and the stress of building and maintaining a vision. There is no one I’d rather be in business alongside; you see like me she has an impeccable work ethic, always remains positive and believes in the big picture.Like me she values and protects our friendship.
Where will Runway Street be in 10 years? The answer to this I know without reservation, and it’s not because I am cocky or naïve, but because my friend and I share an inseparable dream to build our brand into an empire. My advice to anyone wanting to do the same: choose wisely, take the leap and never look back. Runway Street is a little over a year old, and for all the sacrifices and passion we put into it this much I know – it will never outgrow our friendship. How can it?Runway Street, the brand, is absolutely nothing on its own. It is what we say it is. It is passion, hard work and friendship at its best.