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The coach: Should I ditch my friend when I start up on my own?

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AJ careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect who has for a long time planned to start a practice with their friend, but now worries they might not be the best fit

Ever since our second year at college, a friend and I have imagined setting up in practice together. Our careers have taken different routes and we have worked for a couple of years for different firms, but both of us feel it is about the right time to start our own office. However, I have had recent work colleagues with whom I think I would have a much better working relationship, and so I am thinking it might be better to set up with them instead. Should I go with my old friendship or a more recent colleague? 

Matthew Turner the AJ coach

I don’t want to alarm you, but who you set up practice with is an essential and life-changing decision, so you are right to consider it carefully. Of the people I know who run practices, two have told me how little they realised the commitment at the outset. In fact one said he felt more of a bind to his business partnership than his marriage. After all, a couple of decades down the line, as well as needing a functioning relationship, your reputation and livelihood will be completely intertwined and invested, which is not usually the case for marriages. So I really take my hat off to those who make such a partnership work. 

Like relationships, a lot of the success derives from being able to communicate effectively. Also vital is possessing complementary skills. Successful partners often excel at different things, such as job-winning, having an eye for detail, technical knowledge, and so on. Perhaps your friend is similar to you, that is why you are friends. Of course you need to be on good terms with your business partners, but perhaps what is best in order to succeed as an architectural outfit is to have contrasting approaches, as well as getting on. 

I would really avoid confusing friendship with business

So, weighing it up, I would really avoid confusing friendship with business. It might be an uncomfortable conversation, but it sounds as though you know in your gut what you should do. Point out that the reason you don’t want to set up with them is precisely because you value them so much that you don’t want to jeopardise your friendship.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com

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