I never get into business with a friend - which is why I need help!
January 20, 2009 3:32 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with a friend involved in a collaborative project that I fear will not take it as seriously as I will?

I hate this very much, and I cannot figure out what to do. I cannot figure it out mostly because it involves a friend.

Ok, bear with me:
A while ago, a friend (let's call him Joe) and I came up with a plan to produce a podcast that would be distributed freely on the industry in which we both work as freelancers (him part time, me full-time as my only means of income). We came up with this idea at a bar, mostly as one of those "hey, it would be cool if we..." kind of bar ideas. We then met again to discuss some of those ideas and talk a little bit about how we would present them, to come up with a domain name, and that kind of stuff.

The last meeting took place two months ago. I am ready to move forward with the podcast, but I am finding that Joe will not likely be able to put in the level of commitment and effort that I will into this project.

I have a brand that is getting considerable growth and interest in the industry, and most of the people we would interview would be would be from the contacts and associations I have built. I may be in a position to sell advertising space within those audio materials, and to promote the audio materials with my online brand. The thing I cannot figure out is how to either take over this podcast idea completely, or set myself up so that the brunt of the work, which will fall on my shoulders, is mine (and I am compensated accordingly from any advertising profits).

The issue I find myself faced with is one of ownership and compensation - Joe is a long time friend, and I care for him - and I never, never, ever get into business partnerships with friends, ever. The podcast project never was discussed with regards to business, as it was generally something we would do for the enjoyment of doing it. However, Joe moves at his own pace, if you will - he has a regular job and a regular life, and kinda moves with his ebbs and currents. I am very self motivated, and since I would bear the brunt of the advertising arrangements, recording, arranging of guests, and so on - I don't want to do a bunch of work for essentially free without "bearing the fruits of my labor," if you will. Essentially, I want to run this podcast like a business, and I fear he will treat it like a hobby.

How do I either A) get out of this situation and do my own thing without losing my friend, B) set Joe up as an employee or independent contractor of sorts who reaps what he brings (like ads and support) to the project, or C) some other aspect of this I had not considered?

It really comes down to this - if I was doing this myself, I could pump out regular material on a regular schedule that would be consistent, and not at the whim of my friend's schedule, which is always full.

The only investment made in this effort so far is the registration of a domain. Technically, my wife came up with the domain name where we would distribute, and my wife and I registered the domain. I don't need the domain, I'd give him the rest of the year of hosting if it came down to it.

What would you do? I cannot figure this out.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total)
How do I deal with a friend involved in a collaborative project that I fear will not take it as seriously as I will?

You don't, you simply don't. This is why friends and business don't mix. Of course if your friend is irreplaceable and your operations side of the business is not, well perhaps it is you that needs to hire people to help you out.
posted by geoff. at 3:35 PM on January 20, 2009

Yeah. Either don't do it, or, if you have to do it, take your worst fears about how Joe will behave and create a situation in which that behaviour is not a problem.
posted by winston at 3:45 PM on January 20, 2009

Have you spoken to him about it? I'd sit down with him and explain how your vision of the project has changed since you both first came up with the idea. Running things with an eye towards making a living off it is worlds away from doing it as a hobby, my guess is he'll agree that he doesn't want to put in (or have time for) that much work. Suggest he can contribute still on a hobby level (maybe a segment every couple podcasts, something that fits his schedule), but in order to make it work on this new level you are going need to run it as your business, which means you need to have more control.
posted by InfidelZombie at 3:45 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can you propose doing the podcast yourself and bringing him in from time to time as a guest-contributer? Maybe if you frame it as an essential part of your job, not just something you'd both consider a hobby--something like "I really want to incorporate a podcast as part of my full-time commitment to [the industry] and do it on a regular schedule. Since you have your own life and job going, I think it would make sense for me to consider it a solo project, but I'd love to collaborate with you from time to time..."
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:47 PM on January 20, 2009

Does the friend have to be a collaborater? Can you tell him you have some ideas for taking it in a different direction to what the two of you had in mind, but it wouldn't really work with his schedule, and would he be ok if you off and ran with it on your own?

At worst, it will start a dialogue where you can lay out your concerns.

Or, this might be too much of a business relationship, but you could also offer to buy him out - tell him "You do nothing. Nada. You walk away and I do all the work, but I give you get a credit and a %5 cut on any profit - money for nothing! As you know, chances are that there will be no profit - it's not that sort of project, but I'm looking for a way that you're cool with letting this thing go."

Save the negotiating for later. It may be that you can convince him that he has too much on his plate already to take on this new thing.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:47 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with the "don't do it" crowd. But since you really want to do it, here's an alternative:

Plan for (his) failure and get him to agree to it. You don't have to write up a contract per se , but write up a plan of action that lists what the whole point of this collaboration is and what is expect from everyone. And, most importantly, what each party will do if the other fails do live up to it. Then when he flakes and you go and run with it he can't complain too much.

On re-reading your question you should actually write up a contract. There's a lot of personal time and the potential for ownerships, rights and revenue disputes that can be avoided by a piece of paper.

To answer your other questions:
A) You don't do the project. You do a different project. Maybe you can roll what you've learned into a related project with some thought. One that doesn't involve Joe in any way.

B) You probably don't. Joe has a job and a family and it is very very rare to find someone in that situation who can make the jump to independent contractor. And if they do it's not from outside motivation, but from internal fire to take something new on. It's not worth even trying if you're already getting cold feet from him.

C) You've got the right instinct with "never, never, ever get into business partnerships with friends, ever" Keep it up. You're not responsible for his failure and he's not responsible for your success.
posted by Ookseer at 4:27 PM on January 20, 2009

I didn't see a part where you explain how you would lose a friend over this. If he doesn't really care about the project and/or is a flake, what difference will it make if you just start doing it yourself? I mean, tell him "Oh hey, I'm gonna start working on the first episode tomorrow night" and other things meant to leave a door open for him to participate, but if he doesn't rise to it, he doesn't. He'll know you're doing it, and what else is there?
posted by rhizome at 5:28 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can you ask to "buy him out"? If he's as go-with-the-flow as you describe, he probably won't care too much, and buying him out shows serious respect for him as an equal co-owner of the idea. Since the business doesn't have too much value yet, I'm assuming you can buy him for, say, the cost of a nice dinner and drinks, or a ski weekend with lift tickets or something that brings you closer as friends.

"So, I've been thinking about BlogBlog. I think it's a great idea, and the more I think about it, the more I really want to take it to the hilt. But I'm worried about how we'd do it together. You have so much going on [tone of voice: "so much great stuff"] whereas I have all this time on my hands and could throw twenty hours a week at this. If you want to keep this idea as a joint project and do it as a hobby, I'll respect that and we can do it together, but if you didn't mind, I'd rather take this idea and run with it. Could I 'buy you out' for maybe the cost of a couple nights out together, with recognition on the website as a co-inventor of the idea?"
posted by salvia at 10:49 PM on January 20, 2009

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