16/10/2014

BLOG: Making Your Friend a Business Partner (and Not Killing Them)

How much would you trust your best friend with? Your bank card, your new laptop… your car keys? Well how about a company that all your worldly possessions are tied up in?

Starting a business alone can be a terrifying prospect and while starting one with a friend may help share the load, it also comes with a fresh set of concerns.

Ideally you want to know your friend in a professional context before jumping in . What are they like in the workplace? How patient are they? How do they cope with pressure? So, before founding Force Of Habit we entered a couple of Game Jams, where a bunch of like-minded people hang out and try to create a computer game in one weekend.

These short bursts of creativity and sleep deprivation helped simulate working together under pressure and while the stress involved allowed plenty of opportunity for disagreements, for the most part we found they didn’t happen.

This gave us great confidence in our ability to work together, and testing that early on is something we’d recommend to anyone reading this. While you may have worked with your friend on casual projects, giving yourself a significant challenge and seeing how you both cope will give you a real insight into how things might be if you’re running a business together

One reason we chose to work together was that we wanted to see what would happen when we merged our two distinct skill sets. A handy by-product of this is that we both have our own authority on various matters and can defer final judgement to the person with the most experience. While creative differences can be productive, we’ve found it pays to maintain a sense of mutual respect. If your colleague is the expert in something you are not, you just have to trust them and hope they would do the same.

If they’re wrong, they’re wrong. So be it. We’d recommend not playing the “I told you so” card unless you want to be that couple in the café who argue, sit in silence and can’t get the bill fast enough.

Working together, just the two of you, means there are times when you’ll reach an impasse. In these cases, unless the matter is urgent, it’s best to put it on the back-burner. Taking the time to understand one another’s opinion often leads to fresh ideas and avoids an argument. Of course you have to be wary of compromising your work simply in order to keep the peace, but viewing your collaboration with a sense of humour, creativity and openness goes a long way to avoiding serious disagreements.

Our creative vision and tastes do vary somewhat, but we try to focus on the areas where they overlap, clash and fizz. We’d go so far as to say that it’s these differences that generate our most lively ideas. Smashing two objects together occasionally results in sparks. Sharing entirely mutual tastes reduces your range of critical judgement and you may find yourselves with self-affirming, but ultimately less truthful opinions regarding your work.

Something to bear in mind is that occasionally you may have grand artistic visions that don’t match those of your colleague, or even of your business. You’ll just have to deal with this, and having a surplus of inspiration is hardly a bad thing. No doubt your partner feels the same way, so it’s best you both come to terms with this early on and remember that your output is the intersection of the two of you, not your own sole personal ambitions.

At Force Of Habit we allow each other space to work on creative projects outside the bounds of the company and it seems like a healthy way to keep ourselves fresh and avoid any resentment building up.

Maintaining a healthy working relationship whilst keeping a sense of artistic integrity and no-compromise design is a tough act, but one that is central to a strong business. Be sensitive, be kind, trust each other, have fun. Ultimately you’ll find it’s not that different to all the other relationships in your life.



FORCE OF HABIT

Force Of Habit is a brand new independent games studio founded by Ashley Gwinnell and Nick Dymond, who between then have won awards at Explay game jams, the TIGA Game Hack and The Wellcome Trust’s “Gamify Your PhD” event.

Illustrated by Simon McLaren

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