How to Run a Business—with a Friend

How to Run a Business—with a Friend

Kayla Graham

Everyone has heard horror stories of family-run businesses falling apart and friendships being destroyed over a failed business. Because of that, most people steer clear of working with friends and family. But Ryan McKenzie has managed to build a thriving business with his Tru Earth co-founder—and best friend. Ryan walks us through what makes their friendship and partnership thrive.

Ryan’s friendship and business relationship with Kevin and Brad

Kevin—the CTO and co-founder of the company—and Ryan have been friends since Kindergarten. They sold lemonade together as children. They made and sold friendship bracelets together. Running a business was always in their DNA. They’ve also done business together their entire adult life.

They met Brad during a down phase in their business. They’d been working in Ryan’s garage during one of the coldest winters ever in BC. Kevin’s teeth were chattering as they were huddled around a space heater. Ryan knew he had to find them an office. So he jumped on Craigslist and found an office 5 minutes away where you could rent office/desk space.

The rent would’ve been $1,000 a month for both of them. Ryan was upfront and flat out said they didn’t have any money. They worked out an agreement where they could start with what Ryan and Kevin could afford and eventually work up to the agreed-upon amount. That’s how they met Brad.

Ryan notes that you know someone is a good person when they see something in you and are willing to take a chance. There was no upside from him other than sharing some of their services. What were the chances of any of that happening? Brad has since become a great mentor for them. Ryan is so thankful that their paths crossed and he showed them what they could become.

Tips for managing business with friends

Ryan would typically avoid working with friends unless you have the type of relationship where you can let things go and move on. Luckily, that’s the kind of partnership he has with Kevin. They can argue and move on swiftly, leaving their disagreement in the past where it belongs.

Ryan believes that the biggest disappointments come when business partners aren’t aligned on expectations. So the best way to make sure a business relationship doesn’t get messed up is to set expectations early. What do you want out of it? When do you want to exit the business? What happens if someone wants out or wants to sell but the other doesn’t? The list of potential issues is long, but putting it all down on paper before you move forward is important.

That way, if something does fall apart, you have a blueprint for how things will work out for each other—and your business. It can also mitigate a lot of concerns you may have upfront and make the ongoing relationship easier to navigate.

Ryan, Kevin, and Brad have built a thriving eco-friendly laundry detergent subscription business together. They have a solid friendship and business foundation. How have they grown their business? What marketing tools and tricks do they have up their sleeves? What do they attribute their success to? Ryan joins Kayla and Amanda in episode #23 of the Content Callout podcast to share their story. Check it out!