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February 6, 2018

HOW DO YOU RUN A BUSINESS AND STAY FRIENDS?

We can almost guarantee that when we go in for an interview, this question will be on the list. It’s something that we get asked time, and time again…

“You started the company as friends first. But what is it like working together?”

We can proudly say that it’s been almost ten years since we’ve started 31 Bits (more on that later!), and we’re STILL friends. Best friends, actually! Sure, we’ve had our share of misunderstandings and tough conversations, but we’ve learned how to work through them.  If you’re about to start a business with your friend(s), here’s our advice:

~ One of our first “professional” pics together 😉 ~

+ Communication is KEY

Over-communicate, actually. Whether it’s about different projects that you’re working on, concerns you have about a situation, or you’re simply curious about how the other person is feeling – Communicate it! Make it a point to schedule weekly meetings, even when it might seem redundant. Most of our frustrations or arguments came from not being on the same page and not communicating what we were doing. Especially with Kallie living in Bali, and Jessie and Alli holding down the fort in Orange County, we have to be THAT much more intentional with each other. We try our best to chat as much as possible… Mostly because we miss Kallie too much!!

+ Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy. 

Over the years we’ve all had to grow into our roles, so we’ve learned how to best support each other along the way. We’ve also learned how to be honest with each other – even if it’s brutal honesty. If we’re not clearly communicating to each other how we’re feeling in the moment, it only makes situations worse and more complicated later on. And being BFF’s and work buddies, we can usually tell when one of us isn’t saying how she feels. We know each other too well!

+ TRUST Each Other, And Make It Known

There’s a lot of trust involved when you’re owning/running a business together. Trust that each other is working hard, trust that each other is getting the job done, and trust that “you’re all in this together”. (High School Musical, anyone??) If the same level of trust isn’t there, it’ll cause conflict and a whole lot of resentment. With trust comes freedom. The kind of freedom that spurs creativity and drive. It may sound silly, but make it a point to let your business partners know that you trust them. Saying “I trust you” has been a game-changer for us!

+ Find Time to SKIP the Work Talk

When we first started 31 Bits, it was hard for us to talk about anything else. But for the first few years we all lived together as well, so there was no real separation from work and life. While it was fun for a season, we realized it wasn’t healthy for the “business talk” to be a 24/7 thing. We started making it a rule that once we left the office, we’d keep work-related conversations to a minimum. If we were all hanging out and Jessie started brainstorming our next marketing campaign, we learned to quickly shut her up. 😉 Just like any relationship, it’s extremely important to connect and have fun together.

+ Don’t Forget the WHY

No matter what we’re going through, we can always come back to WHY we started 31 Bits. It’s a cause so much greater than working with friends or fun and fashionable products… it’s about the artisans. It’s about empowerment and teaching our customers why ethical consumerism is so important. Sure, we have little arguments here and there, but when we look at the big picture of what we’re trying to do, everything else seems fleeting. As Jessie’s dad Chuck likes to say, “Just keep the main thing, the main thing!”