Of A Kind Founders Advise And Analyze Working With Friends In New Book ‘Work Wife’ by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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Two young mixed race Latina women working together on a project in their apartment or a modern office – co-working space in Downtown Los Angeles. They are going through the paperwork, finishing up work while having lots of coffee.Getty

There is an old adage that one should never mix friendship and business, but Of A Kind founders Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur are evidence that is not always the case. In their new book “Work Wife: The Power of Female Friendship to Drive Successful Businesses,” Cerulo and Mazur discuss why they believe their friendship and business has been successful, and they interview other successful “work wife” partners who also discuss how their friendships and businesses flourish. The women examine a breadth of topics: communication strategies, financing, how they handle disagreements and balancing friendship with partnership to list a few. “This book is meant to show—and to celebrate—how some women have done this, but not to assert there is one way to do it,” write Cerulo and Mazur. Here are a few strategies, philosophies and things to keep in mind from Cerulo, Mazur and the entrepreneurs they interviewed on working with their friends:

If You Don’t Have A Previous Relationship, Go On A Crazy Adventure

You and your future work wife will spend a great deal of time together, at times under stressful circumstances. “If [cofounders] haven’t known each other five-plus years, I often suggest they take some crazy trip together to make sure they don’t hate each other at the end of it,” said Hayley Barna, co-founder of the beauty subscription box Birchbox. Mazur and Cerulo agree it is as good of a litmus test as any for how your potential partner will react when things go wrong, as they usually do in travel and in business.

Establish Roles And Share The Burden

When Cerulo and Mazur founded Of A Kind, they were surprised by how much of their workload is more about the day-to-day minutiae of running a business than bringing their big, creative vision to life. So when there are a lot of monotonous tasks to take care of, who does them? They interviewed Ann Friedman, Aminatou Sow and Gina Delvac, who started their podcast “Call Your Girlfriend” in 2014 and they’re not even on the same coast—Friedman and Delvac are in Los Angeles and Sow is in NYC. They divvied up labor organically into each of their proficiencies, but like any other business, monotonous tasks pop up and someone has to take care them. They all keep their finger on the pulse of who is pulling in partners for live events, emails and Dropbox alerts to monitor who is doing the heavy lifting at the moment. Their initiative to take-up slack is intuitive, and it works for them. Cerulo and Mazur write that they envy their system, because that would not work for them. When things do not fall into the obvious categories of “editorial” (Cerulo) and “visual” (Mazur) tasks are divided on a spreadsheet. It’s not about how you do something, as much as knowing what works for you and your partners.

Be Transparent  

Cerulo and Mazur write that transitioning from the hypothetical, brainstorm phase of starting a company together to the opening bank accounts part of opening a business made the idea, and the risks real. “We were feeling unmoored —from the work lives we had known and, to some extent, from each other in these new roles,” they write. “The person we’d otherwise turn to for comfort was in the exact same position, with all the same questions, uncertainties, and anxieties.” They needed a system to govern the friendship and the partnership: radical transparency. Sharing their calendar not only makes life efficient from a business perspective, but also creates sensitivity around their schedules. It also helps build trust, knowing the other person respects your time and knows how to best utilize it by adding appointments and tasks to a shared calendar. It also ensures grumpy moods are taken less personally when you know your partner has returned from the DMV. It’s a way to ensure nothing happens without the other knowing about it, so you’re always on the same page.  

Learn How To Fight

Disagreements are inevitable in friendship and in business, it is how you handle those disagreements that determine the success of both. It took a management coach to assist Mazur and Cerulo with their conflict style. He coached them to air urgent frustrations and grievances in the moment, articulating their feelings then moving on— containing the disagreement. Mazur and Cerulo also designate a time every week to talk to each other (yes, even more than they already do) to sort things out, good and bad, because it eliminated a common excuse of theirs, “there’s no good time to bring something up.” Addressing conflict in the moment has taught them that they have a strong foundation on which to argue without holding up the day’s schedule.

Have A United Front

Cerulo and Mazur belabor the importance of communication in every circumstance: defining roles, financing, hiring, firing, fighting, etc. often because in order for the business and friendship to succeed and move forward, the founders must be a united front. Resolving issues and conflicts helps build a strong foundation for your friendship —and the foundation won’t hold if there’s a crack. So much of this book is dedicated to navigating difficult decisions, working through issues and the stresses of starting a business together because the beginning of the end of many businesses is irreconcilable differences between founders.

March 13, 2019 at 10:56AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs