Articles and legal news from the Atkinson Vinden Team.

Mixing Business and Friends

Commercial Law, Disputes

When it comes to mixing business with friends, there are many differing views.  Some consider that the two must always be kept separate, in order to ensure any practical and difficult decisions do not impact the friendship. Other people fall into business relationships with old friends or form trusting relationships with colleagues, leading to mutual confidence and contribution in the business arrangement.  Either way, most people think that a commercial dispute will “never happen to me”. These relationships are built on trust.

Whichever way you do business, it is important (and, indeed, necessary) to ensure contracts are properly set up amongst the parties. Many years down the track, those written agreements may come in handy, saving you from potential litigation and the court system. Some examples where written agreements may be useful include:

  • Shareholder agreements, so that each party clearly understands what to expect when one party wants to sell his/her shares in the company;
  • Consultancy or independent contracting agreements regarding shared revenue, commission or referrals; and
  • Joint venture agreements, particularly what to do when one party decides to sell his/her share in the venture.

It may seem totally unnecessary for you to formally document these types of agreements; however, in our experience, disputes arise in all types of business relationships – irrespective of friendship or family ties.  Recording your business agreements will allow you to move forward in business, even if the bond between you weakens. Tight agreements will prevent you from looking back and learning with the benefit of hindsight.

If you are a business owner or establishing a business relationship with a friend or acquaintance, get in touch with our commercial team.  We can help you ensure peace of mind with all your contracts and agreements.  It is worthwhile now considering any possible future situations or circumstances that may arise, even if you have been doing business for quite some time or purchased an investment property many years ago.  It is never too late to tighten up, refresh or record your agreement.  It is a living document, which can be updated to reflect the business’s current circumstances. Of course, it is always best to document the agreement when everyone is getting along and excited about the business.

Alternatively, if you require assistance with a looming dispute or litigation currently on foot, our disputes resolution team can help you resolve the issue.  We have significant experience in resolving various types of commercial disputes, particularly business relationships that are intertwined with personal friends or relatives.  If you are concerned that a business relationship may (or has) turned sour, we can help you deal with your situation at hand, as well as reviewing any agreements currently in place.


Protecting your reputation starts with simplifying the complex. This handy checklist should quickly point you in the right direction and help you understand whether you have a case, and where to start to secure the best possible outocme.