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6 Secrets of Starting a Business with a Friend

Written by Claire Pass & Rachael Bushby – Co Founders of Dragonfly: Impact Education @dragonflyimpact

We’ve always been the ultimate team players: happy to work for someone else, always willing to put in the extra hours, to go above and beyond, to put our heart and soul into the workplace. Truth is, none of that has changed – but now we are older, wiser and much more sure of what we stand for, we also wanted to be all of those things for a workplace that’s 100% aligned with our vision and values. So there was only one thing for it – create our own.

Here are the 6 secrets no-one told us:

1.You need to find the holy grail of communal work spaces (we’re still searching…). 

It’s probably not a co-incidence that the inception of our vision was at a children’s farm. That’s not a farm of children, but one where they can go to see the animals and run free in a play area. It was a beautiful day in July and as teachers, we were both off with our children enjoying coffee and cake in the sunshine. Inevitably, our catching up included discussions about education, children, families and the pressures of modern society on all of the above. So, we decided to form Dragonfly and do something about it. 

Since that fateful day, we’ve tried various meeting places to plan and launch our baby business: coffee shops (where we’ve been shouted at by an irate customer for working in there); a hotel exactly midway between our two homes which unfortunately no longer seems to exist, leaving us cursing the satnav; and our own homes – but with four kids and two dogs between us, not a lot of actual work gets done in these venues! Converting the garden shed into an office might be an option one day, but until then, we’re still searching. 

2. Never expect to find a photo of the two of you that you both like. 

The top benefit of working with someone who knows you inside out: they can see your strengths even when you can’t 

So, part of this can be put down to the social pressure that results in people everywhere spending so much time vetting and filtering photos in their private lives (we have a session on this!) but for us, there’s also something deeper there. When one of us looks at a photo of ourselves, we see our imperfections but when looking at the photo of the other we see someone we love, their beautiful idiosyncrasies and unique strengths. This is the top benefit of working with someone who knows you inside out: they can see your strengths even when you can’t. 

3. Never expect to find a font that you both like. 

Now here’s the flipside of #2 – the professional differences of opinion. This is outside of the remit of usual friendships and when you have two people who are highly qualified, experienced and respected in their fields there are times when we both think we’re right! What we’ve learned more than anything is that the other will always respect the different perspective – largely because of the rock-solid foundation of trust that comes from years of friendship. Then, if we still can’t agree we will find a third way. From this we have learned so much about staying open, flexible to different ways of doing things and the huge benefits of ‘sleeping on it’!  

4. Pencil in 7 months to open a business bank account. 

The devil really is in the detail, so plan your timescales accordingly. 

This sounds flippant – but it is the actual amount of time it took us to get a popular high street bank to open our business account! From conflicting instructions from staff members, to queuing for what seemed like hours to collect bank cards (only to be told that what is there in pretty clear font in their letter is not in fact correct!) Our trials and tribulations with this could be a post in itself, so let’s just focus on the takeaway lesson here – you’ll be sailing along great guns with the wind behind you, only to find that the last 20% of the work takes 80% of the time. The devil really is in the detail, so plan your timescales accordingly.

5. Prepare to be amazed by your friends! 

People are incredible. You meet, you eat together, you have drinks and fun – you don’t very often see your friends in ‘work mode’. But mention you are starting your own business and you find that your friends are business geniuses, expert researchers, marketers and communication experts. You will know people who can design websites while juggling a newborn and a 9 year old! Not to mention the absolute gold of parent-friends who will outright tell you when you are being too teacher-y and to take it down a notch. The incredible thing is just how generous people are with their time and their expertise – be brave enough to share your dream and you’ll be amazed at how friends can step up to help.

6. Expect it to be exhausting but amazing! 

There has been more to this journey than we ever could have imagined. We have always been do-ers, but now we are also strategic planners, learning about details of the business world we never knew existed! Learning is tiring – we know this well. We also know that the learning curve is a myth – it’s more like a learning roller-coaster. But that’s why having your best friend on the journey with you is a gift – when one is down, the other is up, and so far we’ve avoided going through a loop at the same time! For us, this is about having a vision that we share and believe in passionately, and as hard as it is sometimes, that kind of passion and purpose is what life’s all about. 

So there you have it – our secrets are out! We are still team players, still willing to go the extra mile – but now it’s for our shared vision of making a difference. If you both have the same values underpinning that vision, you will be in for the most rewarding hard work of your life!