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How to successfully build a company with a friend

For the past three years, I have been building a company called MOVE (Motivate. Overcome. Value. Empower.) with my best friend, Lexie Phipps. MOVE is dedicated to helping females reach their full potentials, and Lexie and I give workshops and summer programs to middle and high school aged girls. Here’s a link to check out the super adorable memory video from this year’s summer program 🙂 

In addition to MOVE, I do a lot of other work – For example, last week, I published a book called Survival of the Prettiest. It’s about body image, media, self-esteem, relationships, mental health, and so much more. 

My book launch party/first ever signing was an extremely exciting night for me, as I celebrated probably my biggest accomplishment to date. This night, to celebrate my work, could have been the perfect opportunity for Lexie to become threatened and jealous….But instead, Lex literally showed up with flowers and a book of 50 reasons why she loves me. Talk about a supportive best friend and co founder 🙂

build a company with a friend - Ashley and Lexie

Choosing a business partner is a big deal, and not something that should not be taken lightly… especially if you intend on continuing your venture for an extended period of time.

Time and time again, I’ve heard that you shouldn’t work with your friends and you should maintain a separation between those two aspects of your life. I couldn’t disagree more – working with my best friend has been an unbelievable experience and I can’t even begin to imagine doing it all alone, or with someone whom I don’t care about as much. Truly, I can’t imagine doing it with anyone BUT Lexie.

I firmly believe that you should build a company with a friend.

So, what should you look for in a potential business partnership? How do you know if you and your friend should start a business together? What characteristics in a relationship sustain a productive partnership, and how can you replicate what Lexie and I have?

Here are a few of my thoughts on the five ways to successfully build a company with a friend.

ashleyandlexie

1. Make sure you share the same vision.

This could not be more essential…the reason why MOVE ultimately works is because both Lexie and I have the same end goal. Though we might differ with our ideas on how to actually get there, both of us are deeply committed to working with middle and high school aged girls on issues such as body image, self-esteem, mental health, and more. We both genuinely want the same result, which is more girls loving themselves, their bodies, and reaching out for help when they need it.

Additionally, we are both committed to the same founding ideals that ground MOVE’s beliefs and mission statement. For example, both Lexie and I seriously prioritize keeping it real with the girls. We don’t sugarcoat anything, and we are always open with our struggles and beliefs. Furthermore, we both believe in the importance of treating the girls as sisters and friends, rather than having a weird power gap of a relationship.

Simply put, we share the same vision in what we hope MOVE to be like.

2. Make sure you are going into business with someone who complements you.

From a leadership/business perspective, Lexie complements me extremely well and fills in my gaps. And I believe I do the same for her.

For example, I’m great at the big picture stuff. Lexie, on the other hand, pays attention to detail in a way I could never have the patience to do. Whenever we create a powerpoint for a workshop, I’ll figure out the structure and put in the slides for my presentation as well as whatever transitions we need. I’ll also make sure the packets we use line up with the powerpoint. However, my work is usually messy with approximately six different fonts and various shades of grey and black in coloring. Lexie will then go in and clean up everything, and make all of MOVE’s work eye-catching, presentable, and most importantly representative of MOVE. Lexie will also take care of making sure the times in our schedule all line up – again, something that I would probably mess up or make a careless error with.

It’s important to work with someone who fills in your gaps, and also someone that you can fill in theirs.

3. Divide…collaborate, and THEN conquer

Lexie and I always split up work based on our strengths. For example, I do the administrative work and book workshops/take care of most logistical details such as getting the location for our summer program, and various other responsibilities. Lexie, on the other hand, is great at handling the staff application process, as well as creating well thought out small group teams for our summer program – an absolutely ESSENTIAL part of the summer program. It’s important to divide up work, otherwise not much gets done.  

However, it’s important to note that everything we do is collaborative. And that’s genuinely for the best and 100 percent how it should be…

For example, this year, we divided, collaborated, and conquered with the summer program’s 5 day schedule. In other words, I took on the responsibility of designing a tentative 5 day schedule and Lexie took on another more fit to her strengths. After I finished, I shared it with Lexie so we could collaborate before finalizing it. Lexie brought in an important perspective and voiced that she was concerned the week as a whole was too heavy, with not enough time or focus on creating a happy, fun, safe summer program atmosphere. She was right, and together we reworked the schedule going off of my baseline. Ultimately, the schedule ended up being a perfect mix and a happy balance – though it certainly wouldn’t have if only one of us was working alone.

build a company with a friend - girls

4. Make sure you both value open and honest communication.

Truth be told, you’re most likely going to experience some form of conflict when you choose to embark on an entrepreneurial journey with someone else.

Lexie and I are no exception to that. However, Lexie and I both really value open and honest communication. Neither of us are passive aggressive, and if we are struggling with something in the partnership, we will express it in a kind manner. Truthfully, I’m actually really proud of us in that aspect – yeah, we’ve had a few tear-filled heart to hearts over the phone, but that’s a good thing!!! That’s so much better than an explosive fight – Lexie and I work to resolve whatever it is we’re dealing with, and we do it in a respectful way.

We would never insult each other or attempt to intentionally hurt the other…quite frankly, we care too much about each other and our friendship to do that (yet another reason why I believe you should work with a friend…mutual respect is to not be underestimated).

Make sure you’re working with someone who you respect. Which brings me onto my next point:

5. Work with a partner you admire and who makes you better

The respect that I have for Lexie is immense. I see so much in her, always have and always will – she is spunky, a strong leader, and I absolutely love watching her do her thing. She is the best friend/little sister/role model/business partner I could ever imagine.

Basically, we’re #bffgoals and I could go on, but I’m already over the word limit for this article :’)

I hope that this helped, and if you’re interested in more of our work, check out our website: http://www.moveofficial.com/

You can follow us on the IG here:@ashleyolafsen 

You can reach Ashley at www.ashleyolafsen.com/

in your inbox everyday at 10am CST.

No fluff or "pie in the sky inspiration." Just real stories.

Written by Ashley Olafsen

Ashley Olafsen is a Huffington Post Contributor, a TEDx speaker, and most importantly a teenager who is passionate about self esteem, body image, media, mental health, and more. She is a social entrepreneur who has co founded a company called MOVE, and co directs numerous workshops and even a 5 day summer program! Additionally, she is a published author! In addition to being a paid speaker, she also sends out a newsletter and creates YouTube videos. To see Ashley’s website, speeches, or to sign up for her weekly newsletter, click here: http://www.ashleyolafsen.com/

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