Oliver Bell, co-founder of Oliver’s Travels shares the perils and pitfalls after starting a company with his best friend Ravi
It was a holiday that planted the seeds of a business idea in the head of Oliver Bell.
Oliver went on holiday with his best friend Ravi to a crumbling chateau in the Dordogne with a group of other pals. Together they came up with the basic idea for their first business, Simply Chateau, when straight out of university. It was a website where people could find and book exclusive, luxury villas without having to shell out a fortune.
Rebranded as Oliver’s Travels the emphasis is still on quirky, lavish, one-of-a-kind places to stay not just in France, but also across Europe and the Caribbean.
But are they still friends? Yes they are, as well as 50/50 shareholders.
Here Oliver tells the secret of how he and Ravi managed to maintain their camaraderie despite the pressures of working together in a high-pressure, 24/7 environment.
Set the ground rules in place before you even get started
One of the most important things you can do when going into business with a friend is make sure that you establish clear ground rules and put everything in writing before you even get started. You don’t need to get all heavy on the legal before you have even launched but it is very helpful to agree on the key business structure, vision and processes before you get going.
Create a clear protocol for resolving conflicts
Going into business with a close friend can throw up a myriad of unexpected situations but one of the most important things we have don’t is set us a clear protocol for resolving conflicts from the onset. We are both very easy going and we respect each other a lot but sometimes it’s just useful to have a plan in place should any major business decisions throw up some disagreements.
Always remain open and honest
It’s really important to never assume that your business partner will always feel the same way about key business matters as you do, just because you are friends. Clear, open and honest communication is key here and you need to set aside time to have conversations as much as possible to ensure that you continually remain on the same page.
Trust one another
You may feel that trusting your best friend is quite similar to trusting your business partner but this isn’t the case. We trust our friends because we know they have no agenda other than our own best interest but when it comes to business, it is really important that you learn to trust their judgement on their key areas of speciality because we can’t all be experts at everything.
Agree on an end goal before you even get started
It may seem a bit doom and gloom talking exit strategies before you have even begun, but it’s very important that you align your expectations when it comes to how you will build the business, how you will run it and how you will eventually exit it. If you don’t share these fundamental growth and exit strategies then without a doubt, it will lead to conflict.
Don’t be afraid to go against the odds
You hear so many stories about people who have gone into business with friends and it has all ended up going terribly wrong. My advice would be ‘Don’t listen to them!’ If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you often have to beat the odds and embrace learning experiences disguised as failures along the way. So just go for it!
Never go into business with someone just because they are your friend
It’s really important when you are starting out, that you ask yourself honestly and make sure that you’re not just starting a business with your friend because they are your friend