Grow Your Business by Collaborating With Your Closest Friends

Being in business for yourself can be a lonely endeavor, but it doesn't have to be!

One of my favorite new discoveries is that I don't have to work alone. I am working with a handful of private clients these days while investing most of my energy into collaborations – and not just collaborations with anyone, but with my closest friends.

Specifically, I'm working on 5 projects simultaneously, each at different stages:

Launched: The True Abundance Oasis with my "business sisters" Natalie Kent and Tomar Levine – an online learning community for soulful business owners.

Enrolling: Sales Alchemy with Dave Burns – an innovative sales course based on the idea that selling is a beautiful art form and a path to self-realization.

In the works: A men's leadership retreat with Bob Schwenkler and Joshua Hathaway, a daylong breakthrough experience with Crystallin Dillon, and a private business training for Strozzi Institute Coaches with Michael Tertes.

I'm finding myself having more fun than ever with my work, without needing to push or motivate myself because the relationships themselves are highly generative. I get to spend more time with the people I love most, learning from each other and making a difference in the world together. In short, it's amazing!

For me, at least. I'm not saying this is the right strategy for everyone. But if you're intrigued and want to try this, here are three things I'm learning about what it takes to build a business based on collaborations with your closest, most talented, and most aligned friends: 

1. Your own solid foundation.

Relationship in general don't tend to work out well when we come wanting to "get" something, or ride in the draft of the other person's identity.

You each need to have your own professional identities and missions in the world to bring to the collaboration, so the "third" energy of your shared identity and mission can clearly emerge.

I also recommend having your own website, your own brand, and your own private clients apart from any collaboration so you can maintain and grow a sense of who you are and what you offer individually.

Of course the mother of all foundations is your own personal/spiritual growth work. I've had to do a shitload of growth and healing to be ready for my current collaborations. Just a few examples…

  • I used to be a control freak. (I still am, but I am learning how to share power and surrender to group wisdom)
  • I use to avoid intimacy. (I still do, but my comfort zone has expanded exponentially)
  • Negotiations used to scare me. (They still do, but now I'm more able to focus on the win-win side of things)

So basically, I used to be someone who couldn't handle what I'm doing now, and now I'm someone who's barely able to handle what I'm doing now… which is the growth spot.

As you keep unlearning your own patterns, you will be a more "clean burning collaborator" and have better collaborations.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • On a scale from 0 to 10, how solid is my individual business foundation? My personal/spiritual foundation? Why specifically did I give myself these scores?
  • What are three ways I can make my foundations stronger?
  • What support do I need as I do this work?
  • What will it look like when I have a 10/10 solid foundation?

Remember, you don't need to wait to collaborate until you have a perfect foundation. You may never feel this way. But it is important to get your feet on the ground, and to choose collaborators who are solid as well.

2. Multiple projects.

Ideas are the seeds of projects. Have lots of ideas, and write them down.

Some of these ideas will germinate into conversations, others will not.

Some of these conversations will grow into collaborative projects when there's resonance and alignment, others will wither and die. This is life.

Don't get attached to one idea or project too early. There are many forces outside of your control that will determine the success and failure of any project, including market interest, timing, and of course the chemistry of your collaboration.

Have a few projects in the hopper. Yet don't over-extend.

Keep your collaboration agreements lightweight and flexible. When you're ready, commit to something small (like putting on a single event) and see how it goes.

Then re-commit from there if you're feeling called. Or let it go. Because you both have your own solid foundations, if your project fails, or one of you decides not to move forward, it may hurt but it shouldn't be a big deal or ruin your friendship.

This is the wisdom of dating before getting married. And you may not even want to get business-married! I'm personally not looking for a monogamous business partner right now – I'm having fun playing the field ;)

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Make three lists:
    • What ideas do I have for collaborative projects and/or people to collaborate with?
    • What conversations are already happening?
    • What projects am I already committed to?
  • What is my capacity right now? (i.e. I have space in my schedule for three projects, and I'm already working on one, so I have room for two more.)
  • What ideas, conversations, and projects am I most inspired to invest in?
  • What am I going to say "no" to in my life and business in order to create more space for these new collaborations?
  • What are my concrete next steps? (Put them in the calendar!)

3. Badass communication skills.

Perhaps this is repetitive with having your own solid foundation, but I don't think I can emphasize enough how much communication matters.

When you're creating multi-faceted relationships like friend-collaborations, the level of complexity is exponentially greater than being "just friends" or "just collaborators" and your communication skills need to rise proportionally to hold the complexity, or the entire thing will combust.

The emotional ride is amplified, so when things are great, they're really great. And when they're hard, they're really hard.

Know this going in, keep communication channels open and flowing in the rough spots, and trust the process. It's worth it.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • On a scale from 0 to 10, how badass are my communication skills? Why specifically did I give myself this score?
  • What am I willing to do to develop my communication skills?
  • What conversations am I avoiding, that if I had them, would create intimacy and free up energy in my collaborations?
  • When am I going to have these conversations? (Reach out now and schedule them!)

In conclusion…

I hope this posts inspires some of you to say "yes" an idea or multiple ideas for collaborative projects that have been floating around in your heart-mind.

Comment and share the ideas, conversations, and collaborative projects that are inspiring you!