Starting a business with your best friend, who amongst us hasn’t had the dream? Discussed often and wistfully over a coffee or wine as we envision a bright future full of camaraderie. We did this so many times before we stepped out of the dream and made this our reality!

We are two friends bonded over shared ambition and drive for success, knowing from early in our friendship that working together could create something impactful. Our conversations, no matter where they had begun, always returned to the prospect of one day building a business together.

In 2013 we embarked on a new journey in the world of Network Marketing. We were thriving in our new industry and buoyed at finally having the chance to work together, we could feel our goal getting ever closer. Our musings over the years had been right, our working relationship proved to be as strong and fruitful as our friendship.

So, if you would like to embark on the journey of business partnership with your best friend, we would love to share our experience and tips with you to get you heading in the right direction to make your dreams, a reality.


It all begins with a great idea


While we were working on our own networking business, we discovered areas where the industry had failed to innovate and was stagnating in outdated processes. While enjoying a girls’ night out we spoke of the lack of digital tools available in the field and knew we had found the way to realise our business dream. This is when the idea and partnership that would ultimately lead to our business was formed. You may have a great original idea, something that no one has done before or you may have a way to innovate an existing industry. You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel, you may just need to find a way to better it.


Defining what you each bring to the table 


We had different strengths and skill sets and working out how to blend them in a way that would create a harmonious working relationship was so important. Kristina brought a wealth of experience from her corporate background, while Michelle’s 15 years in the fashion industry had honed her eye for detail and creative flair. Knowing each other’s strengths and skills, we began to clearly define what each of roles in the business were going to be. It is a great idea to create a detailed job description for each of you, that way you know what areas you are both responsible for and this limits the opportunity for tasks to get missed.  


Do your research


Through consultation with industry leaders and colleagues, in addition to our personal experience in network marketing, we developed a clear understanding of what was needed to assist network marketers and SME business owners to bridge the gap between a growing industry and the processes involved with building those businesses. It is so exciting to have a great idea but it is a mistake to jump the gun. Take the time you need to thoroughly research your industry and also, your competition. Doing so will save you a lot of heart ache down the track. 


Be prepared to put in the hard yards


Start-ups involve a lot of sweat equity, putting in the countless hours with no financial reward is a sacrifice. We had to invest financial and even had to take on part time jobs to help financially maintain our lifestyles. Sacrificing income, work/life balance, sleep and comfort are all part of the deal with a start up! Our favourite piece of advice that keeps us focused on the end goal is this, ‘Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t’.


Doing something you love with your best friend doesn’t feel like work


When you find your passion and purpose and combine it with the ultimate partnership, your business will never feel like hard work. When your deep in the trenches of start-up life aka (debt, depression, FOMO, emotional rollercoaster, tears) there is no better medicine then having your best friend as your business partner. It always ends up with a deep conversation and breakthrough which lifts you out of the hole and reminds you of the where you’re going.


Give each other permission to have the honest conversations – business hat versus friend hat


It is important to find the balance in your partnership. Our golden rule is that our friendship comes first. We always vowed that we would enjoy the journey together. We have this ritual, whenever we’re starting work we sit down and have a tea/coffee and debrief on a friendship level and once all was said and done, we would fire up the laptops and get to work. This balance has kept us grounded as business partners. Have the honest conversations and give each other permission to call the other out if needed. We simply position the conversation but saying something like… “I’m putting my business hat on now”


Step back and reflect on the journey, celebrate the small wins – every step of the way


There are many challenges you have to face as a small business owner, so all too often it can feel like you’re running a never-ending marathon! We have found that stopping and reviewing our progress is a great way to keep a motivated mind-set. We like to celebrate the small wins, whether it’s a high five or a glass of champagne. It’s also great to review things that have gone wrong, we chose to look at our mistakes as lessons, and we are equally grateful for these things as well. 


Partnership creates accountability resulting in execution


If you can find a business partner that is on the same page, that shares your vision and work ethic and if you can keep it honest, then you have a winning recipe for partnership success! We are forever grateful for our friendship and partnership and we are constantly pumping each other up for our individual strengths. 

Some may think that coming up with an idea is the winning ticket to success, but what we have learnt it is the execution that births the idea and creates the success. A partnership provides the accountability which drives the execution and brings it all to life. 

Going it alone is business can have its benefits but why would we when we get to share the journey with each other! Having a business partner creates a magical creative flow and dynamic exchange of ideas and perspectives as after all, two heads are better than one.

Michelle Szalinski and Kristina Benkotic Ellul

Founders at Networkish
Michelle Szalinski and Kristina Benkotic Ellul are the founders of Networkish, an app that brings networking into the 21st century. They are passionate about helping people build stronger networks and more meaningful connections, which will result in bigger, better and more sustainable businesses.
Michelle Szalinski and Kristina Benkotic Ellul

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