It’s always been your dream to be self employed. You’ve worked long and hard to establish a thriving business or maybe you’ve just opened your doors. Either way, you’re wondering if you should take on a business partner or continue to operate solo. Or maybe you want to partner with a friend but aren’t sure if you should mix business and pleasure. There are many advantages to having a business partner, such as shared responsibility and complementary skills. However, there are also a few potential pitfalls to avoid. I had the pleasure of chatting with Cheni Yerushalmi, co-founder of Sunshine Suites, a community-based shared office space in Manhattan, New York. Cheni knows a thing or two about working with a business partner. In fact, he founded Sunshine Suites with his childhood best friend, Joe Raby. They’ve worked together for 8 and a half years and they’ve managed to maintain a strong working relationship and friendship, which isn’t an easy feat.
5 QUESTIONS WITH CHENI YERUSHALMI
1. Tell us about Sunshine Suites. Why office space?
Sunshine Suites is a community based shared office space with two locations in Manhattan. We provide a complete, modern office environment for an affordable monthly fee. We pool our resources to gain attractive benefits and health insurance for our members. We also have a vacation home in Vermont and a ton of networking events. Sunshine Suites was born out of our frustration with the lack of affordable office space in NYC. Most small business owners can’t afford the steep price tag for office space. But, let’s face it; life doesn’t happen when you’re sitting at home with your cat. We wanted to create a community for business owners to network and collaborate in a beautiful, professional, and affordable space.
2. What advice can you give someone who is considering entering into a business partnership?
Do your due diligence. Don’t be so quick to give away your business. Be sure to set up terms so that equity grows over time. For example, 5% share of equity after 6 months, 10% share of equity after one year, etc. It’s important that the agreements you make don’t tie you down if the partnership doesn’t work out. It’s crucial to bring in outside sources and consultants regularly. This way you’ll gain a more objective view on things. Your business is something you gave birth to and will have to nurture to help it grow. You want a partner that will approach your business with the same level of enthusiasm and commitment that you have, but who also shares the same business “parenting” philosophies and values. Also, choosing a partner with a differing skill set than your own only enhances what you can accomplish together.
3. In your experience, what are the pros and cons of entering into a business partnership?
In a partnership, you have someone to keep you accountable. It also helps to have more man power and differing skills. You can accomplish much more together with your partner than you could on your own. And, of course, you have someone to go through the ups and downs with. You have a friend by your side to support you. But it can be hard to maintain a friendship if you’re always talking about the business and not enjoying time together outside of work. If you’re not partnered up with the right person, things can go sour. Not everyone agrees on moral issues and business practices – these differences can divide partners and lead to a messy split. But, overall, my experience has been positive. I’m happy to be working with Joe and I’m glad to have a partner at Sunshine.
4. Do you and Joe ever have disagreements on how to run Sunshine Suites? How do you handle these disagreements?
Absolutely. This is completely normal. We had a really stressful time during the economic downturn attributed to the credit crunch. Numbers were down for the first time and we were forced to look at different avenues for attracting individuals and companies who felt that working from home would be the safer approach. Joe and I had to sit down and take a serious assessment of our business strategy and make some hard decisions. We both try to keep our egos in check and not point fingers, but sometimes emotions get the best of us. But, we’re in this together and we try to approach issues with a problem solving mentality – we hash them out and then move on. I’m grateful for those hard times. If it weren’t for our struggles, we wouldn’t appreciate what we have today – a successful, thriving business.
5. How do you take care of your business relationship while still maintaining a strong friendship with Joe?
Joe and I make sure that we don’t step on each other’s toes. We both know what we’re good at and what we’re not so good at. I see myself as the creative visionary who enjoys sales and growing the Sunshine brand. Joe, coming from an accounting background, is great at managing the company from a CFO position by evaluating strategy based on ROI. I think we avoid a lot of conflict because we respect each other’s skills. We also make sure that we spend time doing fun things together outside of work. It can be really straining to work with a friend, because you spend a lot of time talking about the business, which can add weight to the relationship. Joe and I take trips together when we need time away. Joe’s cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. So, we decided to do what we could to help out. Later that year, we flew into Vancouver together and rode our bikes all the way down to Mexico in the name of breast cancer awareness and research. We arrived at Vancouver International in our flip flops with 40 lbs of gear and built our bikes on the spot. People must have thought we were crazy. It took us about 27 days to make the trip, but we did it. It helps to have something bigger that you’re a part of outside your business. After 8.5 years in business together, Joe and I are still close. I consider that a huge achievement. I get to work with my best friend every day. It doesn’t get any better than that.
About The Author
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