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Working With Friends: Brilliant Plan or Disastrous Idea?

May 7, 2014 by Ginella Massa

There are two rules in life:

1. Don't cut your own bangs. 2. Don't do business with a friend.

I've already broken both of these.

When one of my closest friends and colleagues approached me about working on a short web series, I jumped at the chance. I had just decided to leave my full time job to work on my own media training business, and she was looking to forge her own path in the broadcasting world.

Having gone to journalism school together, and working on many late nights on school projects, we had always mused about how well we worked as a team, and how wonderful it would be if we ended up working in the same company. Funnily enough, that did happen unintentionally -- we both landed jobs in different departments of the same media outlet.

For more than two years, we shared fleeting moments in the same building as our schedules rarely overlapped and real lunch breaks were hard to come by in our deadline-driven business. Our work relationship consisted of waving at each other as we arrived or departed for our shifts, catching up during a synchronized bathroom break, or emailing funny anecdotes from our workspace throughout the day.

I was excited to finally be working together to on a shared vision that we could really put our stamp on. But I couldn't help but think of all those people who said getting into business with friend was risky. Even though this wasn't really a business (it was a small side-project that wasn't going to be generating any sort of income), we would be spending many hours on the phone, meeting in coffee shops, making decisions about how to make our short web series interesting and fun for us and our viewers. Yet somehow, I wasn't worried that working together could ruin our friendship. I knew it was because we had already proven that we both knew how to effectively collaborate. In order to succeed, we would have to be sure to follow a few simple steps.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

A working relationship is just that -- a relationship. Trust and communication are the most important part of working together successfully. If one person doesn't express their reluctance or reservations about any aspects of the project, how can the other know? No one is a mind reader. Always say how you are feeling, and just as important is always listening to your partner's concerns.

Be prepared to spend A LOT of time together.

It's important to actually LIKE the person you're working with. We all have those friends or colleagues who we can only stand in small doses. They are fun to be around for a little while or in certain settings, but after a while it can be exhausting. These are not the type of people you should get into business with. Be honest with yourself about just how much time you can spend with this person before they drive you crazy.

Make sure the timing it right for both parties.

It's important that you are both on the same page when it comes to the time commitment for your shared project. If one is more committed to the project than the other, it just won't work. Be sure to communicate changes in your life that may affect how much time you can contribute to the project.

Play to your strengths.

They say opposites attract. Recognize what each person is good at and delegate tasks accordingly. Don't try to micro-manage all aspects of the project together. Divide the workload and trust your partner to take care of the work they do best.

Know when to call it quits.

Sometimes projects fail. But it's important to talk about how much time you want to dedicate to making sure that it doesn't. Pre-determine a date down the road when you will step back and re-evaluate the success of your project. And until that time, work as hard as you can to make it the best it can be.

Stay tuned for The Pulse - a 4-part web series debuting Friday May 9th, 2014! Follow my partner in crime on Twitter @TheMaleehaView and check out her blog

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About the Author

Ginella Massa is a Canadian journalist, producer, and media trainer. She became Canada's first Hijab-wearing reporter in 2015. Ginella  has worked for CityNews, CTV News, Rogers TV, and NEWSTALK 1010.  She frequently writes about issues affecting Muslims in North America. 

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