This business owner’s partners are her best friend and husband. Joyce Shulman of Macaroni Kid, a site dedicated to delivering the scoop on all the family-friendly events and activities happening in their communities each week, reveals the secrets to keeping your business in check without ruining your relationships. She talks about work alongside her friend, Nicki Hemby, and husband, Eric Cohen.
I read on your site that a you and a friend casually discussed a business and then went for it. Had you ever worked with a friend prior to this?
Nicki and I had worked together before, in fact, she was the very first employee of a company my husband and I founded more than ten years ago. When she moved away, I knew it was time to close that company ’cause there was no way I could do it without her. But I’ve always worked with people close to me, my husband and I have been business partners for 12 years and Macaroni Kid has three partners, Eric, Nicki and me.
Do you split your duties or is there overlap in your responsibilities?
We definitely have clear divisions of responsibilities, but we all consult on all major decisions. We are all so very busy that it is critical that we are respectful of each others responsibilities and decisions. But we all have what I call “veto power” over major decisions. If any one of us feels THAT strongly about something significant, that decision will be respected. But, veto power is very rarely used by any one of us, and is reserved for those things that someone feels are just too important to let go.
Are there any work situations that you handle differently because you’re friends? (e.g., criticism/feedback, making time for meetings, how you communicate–casually vs. more formally).
We are very informal in the office and there is tremendous overlap between our work and personal lives. That’s to be expected, especially since our third partner is my husband! There are not a lot of boundaries here, but there is a tremendous amount of respect and that’s what does the trick. I believe that my two partners are truly the smartest, hardest working, most creative, and dedicated people I know and I count my blessings every day that I can share this entrepreneurial journey with them. I think if I didn’t have so much respect for their talents, it could be very difficult.
Has your friendship changed since working together?
Only deepened. Macaroni Kid is a very quickly growing company and with that comes lots of challenges. Handling those things with a friend absolutely strengthens the friendship.
Do you have any cautionary words of advice for women considering going into business with friends?
Be very, very, very careful about who you choose to work with. If you have any reservations at all, about how this person works or thinks, if you have any real differences in your vision for your company and if you don’t have huge respect for them, I would really suggest thinking twice about it. But, if you have the right idea and the right friend, absolutely go for it. However, you won’t know until you try. Some business partnerships will work, others won’t. It’s all about trying it and seeing if you both have similar ideas. If the partnership quickly becomes sour, it might be worth getting a law firm involved to make sure you have some legal representation. By visiting a website similar to https://www.sidley.com/en/us/services/commercial-litigation-and-disputes/, for example, you should be able to fight your case if your partner tries to pursue legal action against you. This has been known to happen before now, so make sure to choose your business partner wisely. No one wants to get legal services involved over breaches of contracts or other business disputes.