Partners shaking hands

Looking To Start A Project With Friends? Make Sure Your Work Ethics Align

“Okay, the first assignment is group work, so please choose your group members…”


In an instant, everyone will clamber to form groups with people whom they think are efficient at their work and are capable of contributing to the work. Some of us may be bummed that we are not in the same class with our friends, that would make group work so much easier, right? After all, friends think on the same frequency as us, don’t they?


Unfortunately, not always. That is why I would advise that you know even your ‘bestest’ friend’s work ethics before launching a project or business with them.


What is work ethics?

What is work ethics? It is the ability to exhibit proper work values. As long as you are sharing a responsibility to get something done, work ethics come to play. It is the attitude that identifies how the person performs the duty assigned to them.


Here’s an example. If you are sensitive about punctuality but your friend, no matter how good and kind he or she is, may be tardy. You may brush it off as “aiya, it’s okay” but when the stress of getting the job done is pressuring you and your friend is nowhere in sight because they are late again, it may lead you to think that they are not serious about work. This creates a tension that may strain a good friendship!

Partners shaking hands

Allow me to break down some stuff to be cautious about before building your dream with your buddy.


1. Who is the BOSS?

I have always wondered how co-founding a business works. Who calls the shots when there are two schools of thought when determining the goals of the team? If we take into consideration the personality types, you can ‘agak-agak’ who will be leading the group and who will gladly follow the lead. But what if you and your good friend are headstrong on an issue that needs to be solved? After all, isn’t that what co-founding is all about? You and your friend (or a team of friends) are the bosses!

This is when it gets a little tricky – which is probably why you have to think through the question very carefully.


Don’t be discouraged just yet! I have also seen how friends turned work partners have cohesive working chemistry as they take on different roles at work. They become two sides of one brain. Conflicts will happen, but that is where communication and trust come to play.


2. Where do you draw the line?

When you start a long term project, expect to be spending A LOT of time with your old friend/new co-worker. You might spend even more time with them than your family or your partner – especially at the beginning. And I must admit, some people who make great friends are never meant to work together. It is the same reason why some husbands and wives cannot work together in a professional setting. There is too much emotion involved.

I know I cannot. Trust me, we tried. But does that make my husband a bad husband? Of course not! We just have different work ethics. That is why identifying work ethics between you and your friends is crucial before starting anything long-term. Values like responsibility, truthfulness, proactiveness and ways of completing a task play an essential role.


That is not all. A degree of respect for each other must be present. It is common to take someone for granted because of familiarity. Just because you spend so much time with each other, you expect your friend to understand you if you slack. Best of friends and co-workers building an empire? That line has to be drawn on when to jump into either one of the roles.

Friends arguing and pointing fingers at each other

Source: LiveAbout


3. How do we know if a friend is business-compatible?

Asking the right questions and answering them honestly, is a good start. It is better to be critical now than risk losing a friend later on (yes, I’ll explain in the next point).

Here are some questions to ponder on:

  • Do we have the same values?
  • Have we worked together before? How was it like?
  • What are my working habits? What are my friends’ working habits? Are these habits compatible?
  • How do both of us react when there is a crisis?
  • How are both of us going to contribute to this project?
  • Do we have the same goals (business/project wise)?
  • How different are our personal lives? Will it clash with the way we want to work?


If you think your answers lead to a positive direction, have a conversation with the said friend(s) and check if their expectations are similar to yours. Air out concerns if there are any. If all parties are willing to make this project work, then it is quite safe to say, GO FOR IT!


4. Are you risking a friendship?

But wait! Even if it’s ‘all systems go’, you still have to be cautious as I would like to think that great friendships are harder to come by than a good business/project partner.

People with similar values and goals may not run their responsibilities the way you approach it. It’s something like a pet peeve. For example, your friend believes that there should be no talks about work on weekends, but you can’t stop thinking about it, and you just need to get right down to the nitty-gritty. So you text your friend and that friend does not reply because, well, it’s the weekend. Then you start thinking, maybe this person is not as passionate about the job as you are and then…

You get what I mean?

Friendships make us emotional, and sometimes they can veto out logic. We can’t seem to think clearly and all of a sudden, we are taking offence. When we take offence we need to talk to someone about it, but ooh, not that friend you are pissed off about so you have to tell another friend and wait a minute, is that gossip? And if you are not careful, both the friendship and the project may turn sour.

Partners talking in front of a laptop


This article is not to shun you from building dreams with your friends. It is a reminder about how friendships can be fragile sometimes if care is not taken to make the relationship bloom. It’s definitely challenging to start a project with friends, but it’s NOT impossible.

Starting a business with a friend is fun, and if you want it to continue to be fun, you have to lay the ground rules first. Some friendships become much better after working together, but it’s definitely not without hard work.

A concoction of oxymoronic attributes, Rachel Yeoh is a lazy overachiever. She writes for a living, sings when the sun goes down and runs a homemade granola company with whatever is left of her time. Always planning for something to do while procrastinating on her bed - she is quick to be on her feet at any chance to travel.

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