Can friends be business partners?

Bambi Francisco Roizen · November 10, 2009 · Short URL:

Bonobos co-founder Andy Dunn on building a business with a former roommate, and other lessons/advice

Andy Dunn, co-founded pants designer and retailer Bonobos in 2007 with his former Stanford Business School roommate Brian Spaly. So far, so good. The two are making a killing at their new venture.

But it's not been all that easy.

"My co-founder and I have highly overlapping skill sets," said Andy, in this segment of "Lessons for Entrepreneurs." Working together has been an “enormous challenge," he added. Andy's advice to former roommates or friends thinking about working together is this: Think about your relative contribution and the architecture of your business relationships. "It's critical."

Fortunately, the two have been able to preserve the friendship, he said. 

Other lessons include hiring well. "Firstly, hire all-stars and delegate," he said. Bonobos coaches its employees to take a leadership position and after a month, many of them are set free to make their own decisions. Another lesson is treating employees well, said Andy.

The key to phenomenal customer service starts at the top, he suggested. Managers should empower their employees and treat them with respect. That culture gets passed along.

So, how do you create that sense of respect and service?

As Andy puts it:  "It comes from designing roles in an environment where people can come alive every day." 

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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Bonobos was founded in 2007 by Andy Dunn and Brian Spaly to solve a major problem in men's fashion: Men want better-fitting trousers, but they don't want to hours in retail stores paying huge mark-ups on designer goods. Brian used the world's best fabrics to make pants that fit more flatteringly, and Andy had the idea to make the customer experience top-notch by selling online with ninja customer service. Bonobos now has customers in all 50 states and over 40 countries worldwide

Andy Dunn

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