We’ve all heard the saying before: Never mix business with personal matters because it either leads to damaged relationships, poor business decisions — or both.
Ten years ago, I did the inadvisable and decided to make my best friend — Artem Petakov — my business partner. Together, we launched our own weight loss program — Noom — which is now the world’s leading weight loss program, helping over 47 million users live healthier, longer lives.
This is to say that even though starting a successful business with a friend can be incredibly difficult, it can also be done. You just need to keep a few business principles in mind along the way.
- Identify each other’s skills; then divide the workload.
When it comes to having a co-foundership, one of the most important things to consider is partnering with someone who can make up for the entrepreneurial skills you lack. For example, my strengths are in business and interpersonal relationships, while Artem is a software engineer who’s well-versed in product development. Together, we make a well-rounded, balanced team.
In the past decade, we’ve discovered that it’s necessary for co-founders to each have their own strengths for a business to be successful. This is why my partner and I divide the responsibilities at Noom, based on what we’re good at. Doing what we like — and are best at — is the most effective way of succeeding.
- Get a buffer.
No matter how close you are with your co-founder, you’re not always going to get along. Disagreements happen in any relationship. It’s only natural. This is why my partner and I have found it so important to have a middle man — someone with a fresh perspective and unbiased opinion who can mitigate conflict.
Naturally, having supportive board members and a group of advisors who can contribute to an overall healthier partnership is important as well.
- Goals are important. Make sure you and your partner have the same ones.
What motivates someone to be an entrepreneur? Money. Fame. Both. Over the years, I’ve learned that whatever it is that motivates you to start a business with a friend, they must feel it too. Otherwise, your business — and friendship — is doomed for failure.
When I first met Artem, we couldn’t have been more different on the outside. He was a Princeton undergrad from Ukraine, while I was a Korean immigrant who could barely speak any English. Yet, we saw eye to eye on on our one goal: to create a long-lasting company that lets people better manage their health. We credit this shared goal as to why Noom is so successful today.
- Build and preserve boundaries.
There’s an underlying trust and respect in a co-foundership, and no disagreement can be settled if this isn’t in place. For this reason, the boundaries Artem and I have built and preserved all revolve around trust.
In our partnership, we never cross the line by implying: A) I don’t trust you; B) I think you have bad intentions; And C) You’re being selfish. These are three business commandments we can’t ever break.
- Lock in private, 90-minute meetings on a weekly basis.
Without communication, people are left confused, upset and unsure in any given situation. It’s no different in business. To combat this, Artem and I hold weekly 90-minute talking sessions that can’t be rescheduled or interrupted.
During these private conversations, we inform each other about everything, from upcoming projects to new ideas, to how our families are doing. And if we can’t manage to meet because we’re continents apart? We chat on Skype.
Communication is just as important as trust and honesty in every relationship. Overall, we consider these weekly chats necessary to sustaining a healthy co-foundership, business and thus, friendship.
Guest post courtesy of Saeju Jeong, the CEO and Co-founder of the world’s leading weight loss program, Noom Coach. The mobile app has helped over 47 million users live healthier lives with the support of trained and certified health coaches. The app has been awarded multiple grants by the NIH, and is the first mobile diabetes prevention program certified by the CDC. Jeong also sits on South Korea’s Ministry of Science & Technology’s steering committee and the board of Chonnam Hospital, South Korea’s largest private hospital.