Whoever said working with friends is a bad idea must have had shitty friends.
Work is the place we spend the majority of our lives. So shouldn’t the bonds we have with our colleagues run deeper than the traditional professional relationships of the past?
As new generations move into the workforce they are looking for ways to make an impact. The natural place to start is with the people they’re surrounded by at the office.
And though strong friendships among company employees are commonplace, the same can’t always be said for a company’s founders. Prevailing wisdom says that working with friends is a bad idea.
Wondersauce was started by friends; people who knew and respected one another, shared a belief that certain things could be done better, and wanted to make a go of it. And while that may go against the guidance of smart people like Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman or Adam Grant (whose perspective that building a successful company with friends is “…just higher-risk and lower-odds.”), our continued growth is evidence they’re both wrong.
Or at least, that failed businesses started by friends either weren’t viable or weren’t built by actual friends.
To us, it was critically important to be as honest and transparent with each other from the beginning as we could. That meant that there would be heated conversations, but it also meant each bad conversation had to end in a handshake or a hug. Because friends have an understanding that 99% of things said aren’t personal, and that being passionate about beliefs and ideas is vital to making something real. This mutually held understanding has helped us ensure that the culture we built created friends out of coworkers and clients alike.
“A friendship built on business can be glorious, while a business built on friendship can be murder.” – John D. Rockefeller
Without the mutual understanding friends have for successfully working together, I think Rockefeller and others are right. However, the rewards of working with friends outweigh the risks tenfold when executed correctly.
There is an innate benefit in building an organization that gives its workforce the ability to create real friendships. When we work with friends we establish a culture that is built around collaboration, accountability, support and trust. If your organization is able to successfuly build a culture on these pillars you will be able to move faster and deliver higher quality work than your competition; especially if it has a culture built around more traditional workplace norms. The norms that meant you could never push the status-quo or suggest ideas that might not fall directly within your job description.
Collaborative environments are rewarding places to work in, and when you work with friends that you respect you will feel a freedom to openly express your ideas. We routinely collaborate across every discipline to innovate for our clients. If we didn’t have friendships across the organization we would hinder our own cross-discipline collaboration.
Wondersauce has built a culture on accountabilty. When you know that your colleague is going above and beyond to deliver their work you are pushed to do the same. When you are accountable to your colleagues, you spread your wings and think about the impact of your thinking on their work. This type of accountability enables our team to think more holistically rather than in a bubble of their own discipline.
When we tackle projects like the redesign of GQ.com or building direct-to-consumer ecommerce experiences like Milk Makeup from the ground up, we have to be able to consider the entire system when we make our decisions. A designer is accountable for the impact that their decisions make for our developers, and vice versa. And in creating a culture that spurs friendships, that designer is able to ensure and consider that impact on their colleague earlier rather than later in the process.
When you don’t have the tools or the experience to tackle new problems it’s important to be able to find someone that can support you. We constantly tackle new problems for business verticals that we may have never worked in before and that puts a demand on our team to support one another in the hunt for creative solutions to our clients’ needs.
One of the best byproducts of working with friends is the ability to trust your colleagues. Trust is the base of all relationships. Without it there is no relationship worth having. Everyone across the organization has to trust that the company is looking out for the employees best interest.
Do more than play ping pong and drink beer.
Lastly, promoting a culture that creates true friendships does not just mean you have a keg, ping pong tables, and daily happy hours. This type of culture starts with giving a runway to everyone to push themselves beyond their comfort zone and never leaving them high and dry when they fail. That’s how you treat friends. That’s how you build an organization that infused with respect. That’s how you run a business in 2017 that ensures eveyone is having fun and doing fulfilling work.
This post originally appeared on Medium. Read it here.