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Top 5 Things to Consider Before You Mix Money with Friendship

4min read
Fresh Voices

The dire warnings against mingling money with friendship date back to Shakespeare, when Polonius, the chief counselor to King Claudius in Hamlet, says, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for a loan often loses both itself and friend." They didn't have electricity or equal rights during the 1500's, but they were still enlightened enough to understand a thing or two about money: it often brings out the worst in people; a loan to the wrong friend could cost both the cash and the relationship.


I got a stiff reminder of this lesson a couple of years ago (my bad, Polonius), when a "mom friend" of mine, Ally, asked to borrow $500, stat. She had an urgent need for seed funding, and I am generally the type who will help a frog cross the road if need be, so I obliged. No interest, no strict payment terms, just goodwill. "Pay me back when you are financially comfortable to do so," I said. "Don't worry about the timing."

You can guess how that turned out.

I am without the money I lent, and without the friendship I thought I had. We'd been close friends since our kids met in first grade, and she ghosted me after I did her a favor.

Despite my friendship-induced PTSD from this incident, I believe money and friendship can mix… with the right person. For me, that person is Jody.

I met Jody in kindergarten, and we immediately bonded over our shared first and middle names (Jodi Lyn and Jody Lynn, respectively). During 40 plus years of friendship, we survived a duel for the same boy in elementary school, high school cliques, double-dating two boys named Jimmy, 80s hair, playing the same varsity sports, attending different colleges, being roommates in our early twenties, multiple moves, marriages, divorce, trips abroad, health scares, pregnancies, motherhood, and my mother's death.

(She never once asked me for money during all of these years of friendship, by the way.)

After my mom's funeral, I became fixated on fulfilling her dream of writing a children's book. I spent countless hours brainstorming and researching possible topics, and sketching out copy. When my son finally gave me the winning idea by innocently asking, "Mom, what was it like when I lived in your belly?" I devoted every minute of my free time to answering his question.

Multiple drafts and rewrites ensued at various coffee shops, between nursery school drop offs, pick ups, and freelance projects. Once I got the book to a place where I felt others could read it, I called her. Jody is not only an incredibly talented illustrator, she is a mom extraordinaire. I knew she would be a perfect second read, and she would see my vision better than anyone else.

I didn't have any money to offer her at that point. I didn't have anyone backing me or believing in me. I had no guarantee the book would ever be published. All I had was my word—a mutual trust earned through decades of friendship—and that was good enough for her.

It took five years to get it done, but, now, our book baby, When You Lived in My Belly, is available for pre-sale and will be out on August 6th. We effectively worked together despite multiple obstacles, differences of opinion, zero funding, countless roadblocks, and almost daily tests of patience, perseverance, and emotional fortitude to bring this book to market. There was a little strain and push and pull but, mostly, there was synergy, shared commitment, and resolve to see it through.

If you're considering mixing money with friendship, how do you avoid an Ally? Here are five ways to pick a Jody:

  1. Assess the friendship. Women have a way of disarming each other and connecting on a deep level rather quickly. Close friendships can be formed during in-depth conversations at kids' sporting events, school functions, or at the gym. Suddenly, someone who was never in your circle is at the center of it—but do you really know her?
  2. Take a hard look at the history of your friendship. Have you had a conflict before? If so, how did you resolve it? Differences of opinion are inevitable when dealing with money and business partnerships. Is your friendship strong enough to overcome challenges and weather storms while remaining intact? Do you really trust her or are you taking a leap of faith?
  3. Get to know her professional persona. Does she have expertise that will complement or clash with yours? Many friendships are based on similarities and not differences, but diverse skill-sets and perspectives make partnerships thrive. What's her work style? Have you spoken to people who have done business with her in the past? Does she share your work ethic? You need to consider every positive and negative attribute before you take a leap.
  4. Take the rose-colored glasses off. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends 8.5 hours a day at work, but entrepreneurs clock much more time than that. While it may be tempting to believe that spending 50-plus hours per week with your bestie is your version of a professional utopia, consider the alternative. Does she have quirks or issues that already grate on your nerves? Have you built enough friendship equity to spend more time with each other than you do with your families?
  5. Have an honest conversation about the structure of your business. Make sure you have transparent and thorough conversations about hierarchy, titles, hiring practices, goal-setting, financial investments, and work expectations. Better yet, capture the conversation in writing when it comes to anything involving money.
  6. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. The Small Business Administration states that while nearly 80% of small businesses survive their first year, only 50% last five years or longer. You're about to embark on a partnership that has more chances of failing than succeeding. That's the reality of starting any business, without the extra layer of complication a friendship can bring. Make sure you pick the right friend.
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Choosing the Right Corporate Structure: Which Business Entity Should You Go With?

Business entities can be defined as the corporate, tax and legal structures which an organization chooses to officially follow at the time of its official registration with the state authorities. In total, there are fifteen different types of business entities, which would be the following.


  • Sole Proprietorship
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership or LP
  • Limited Liability Partnership or LLP
  • Limited Liability Limited Partnership or LLLP
  • Limited Liability Company or LLC
  • Professional LLC
  • Professional Corporation
  • B-Corporation
  • C-Corporation
  • S-Corporation
  • Nonprofit Organization
  • Estate
  • Cooperative Organization
  • Municipality

As estates, municipalities and nonprofits do not concern the main topic here, the following discussions will exclude the three.

Importance of the State: The Same Corporate Structure Will Vary from State to State

All organizations must register themselves as entities at the state level in United States, so the rules and regulations governing them differ quite a bit, based on the state in question.

What this means is that a Texas LLC for example will not operate under the same rules and regulations as an LLC registered in New York. Also, an LLC in Texas can have the same name as another company that is registered in a different state, but it's not advisable given how difficult it could become in the future while filing for patents.

To know more about such quirks and step-by-step instructions on how to start an LLC in Texas, visit howtostartanllc.com, and you could get started with the online process immediately. The information and services on the website are not just limited to Texas LLC organizations either, but they have a dedicated page for guiding fresh entrepreneurs through the corporate tax structures in every state.

Sole Proprietorship: Default for Freelancers and Consultants

There is only one owner or head in a sole proprietorship, and that's what makes it ideal for one-man businesses that deal with freelance work and consulting services. Single man sole proprietorships are automatic in nature, therefore, registration with the state is unnecessary.

Sole proprietorships are also suited to a degree for singular teams such as a small construction crew, a group of handymen, or even miniature establishments in retail. Also, this puts the owner's personal financial status at jeopardy.

Due to the fact that a sole proprietorship entity puts all responsibilities for paying taxes and returning loans, it directly jeopardizes the sole proprietor's personal belongings in case of a lawsuit, or even after a failed loan repayment.

This is the main reason why even the most miniature establishments find LLCs to be a better option, but this is not the only reason either. Sole proprietors also find it hard to start their business credit or even get significant business loans.

General Partnership: Equal Responsibilities

The only significant difference between a General Partnership and a Sole Proprietorship is the fact that two or more owners share responsibilities and liabilities equally in a General Partnership, as opposed to there being only one responsible and liable party in the latter. Other than that, they more or less share the same pros and cons.

Registration with the state is not necessary in most cases, and although it still puts the finances of the business owners at risk here, the partnership divides the liability, making it a slightly better option than sole proprietorship for small teams of skilled workers or even small restaurants and such.

Limited Partnership: Active and Investing Partners

A Limited Partnership (LP) has to be registered with a state and whether it has just two or more partners, there are two different types of partners in all LP establishments.

The active partner or the general partner is the one who is responsible and liable for operating the business in its entirety. The silent or investing partner, on the other hand, is the one who invests funds or other resources into the organization. The latter has very limited liability or control over the company's operations.

It's a perfect way for investors to put their money into a sector that they are personally not experienced with, but have access to people who do. From the perspective of the general partners, they have similar responsibilities and liabilities to those in a general partnership.

It's the default strategy for startups to find funding and as long as the idea is sound, it has made way for multiple successful entrepreneurial ventures in the recent past. However, personal liability still looms as a dangerous prospect for the active partners to consider.

Limited Liability Company and Professional LLC

Small businesses have no better entity structure to follow than the LLC, given that it takes multiple good ideas from various corporate structures, virtually eliminating most cons that are inherent to them. Any and all small businesses that are in a position to or are in requirement of signing up with their respective state, usually choose an LLC entity because of the following reasons:

  • It removes the dangerous aspect of personal liability if the business falls in debt or is sued for reparations
  • The state offers the choice of choosing between corporation and partnership tax slabs
  • The limited legalities and paperwork make it suited for small businesses

While more expensive than a general partnership or a sole proprietorship, a professional LLC is going to be a much safer choice for freelancers and consultants, especially if it involves risk of any kind. This makes it ideal for even single man businesses such a physician's practice or the consultancy services of an accountant.

B, C and S-Corporation

By definition, all corporation entities share most of the same attributes and as the term suggests, they're more suited for larger or at least medium sized businesses in any sector. The differences between the three are vast once you delve into the tax structures which govern each entity.

However, the basic differences can be observed by simply taking a look at each of their definitive descriptions, as stated below.

C-Corporation – This is the default corporate entity for large or medium-large businesses, complete with a board of directors, a CEO/CEOs, other executive officers and shareholders.

The shareholders or owners are not liable for debts or legal dispute settlements in a C-Corporation, and they may qualify for lower tax slabs than is possible in any other corporate structure. On becoming big enough, they also have the option to become a publicly traded company, which is ideal for generating growth investments.

B- Corporation – the same rules apply as a C-Corporation, but due to their registered and certified commitment to social and environmental standards maintenance, B-Corporations will have a more lenient tax structure to deal with.

S-Corporation – Almost identical to a C-Corporation, the difference is in scale, as S-Corporations are only meant for small businesses, general partnerships and even sole proprietors. The main difference here is that due to the creation of a pass-through entity, aka a S-Corporation, the owner/owners do not have liability for business debt and legal disputes. They also are not taxed on the corporate slab.

Cooperative: Limited Application

A cooperation structure in most cases is a voluntary partnership of limited responsibilities that binds people in mutual interest - it is an inefficient structure due to the voluntary nature of its legal bindings, which often makes it unsuitable for traditional business operations. Nevertheless, the limited liability clause exempts all members of a cooperative from having personal liability for paying debts and settling claims.

This should clear up most of the confusion surrounding the core concepts and their suitability. In case you are wondering why the Professional Corporation structure wasn't mentioned, then that's because it has very limited applications. Meant for self-employed, skilled professionals or small organizations founded by them, they have less appeal now in comparison to an LLC or an S-Corporation.