Starting a business with a mate
What do you get when you put two mates together who both have a background in software development and coding as well as a strong business acumen? Well, you get a recipe for success.
Nathan Airey came to the mixing bowl with strong experience as a coder, working previously with his mate, Matt Dyer, at EatNow on the backend. The two put their skills and experience together to eventually start Bookwell, a simple, user-friendly directory for those seeking wellness experiences (i.e. massages, pedicures, even piercings!).
With bussinessesview.com.au having looked previously at how couples and families have worked together in the same business, we thought to keep the ball rolling and check out how a couple of good mates faired together at building a business.
Matt Dyer founded EatNow in 2010 and in mid 2012 he sold a majority share to Catch Group. Working as General Manager of EatNow and then Commercial Director of MenuLog Group following a merger, it wasn’t until 2016 that he could move to his next entrepreneurial project, with Nathan by his side. He was kind enough to sit down and let us pick his brain for how starting a business with a mate can best be approached before and during the running of a business.
Q. How did Bookwell.com.au come about? Was there a gap in the market?
When Nathan and I were working on our previous business, EatNow, we often discussed other ideas and
businesses we liked. We always thought there was an opportunity in the health, beauty and wellness
industry as it comprises so many small businesses that typically weren’t keeping pace with technology,
and it wasn’t easy for customers to book with them. After we sold EatNow we got started on Bookwell
Q. What has been the biggest challenge of running businesses as friends?
Nathan and I actually met through working at EatNow, where we established a good working relationship
and trust first and then built a friendship on top of this. I think this leads to far better outcomes than
friends who go into business without any knowledge of what it’s like to work together. Given this it’s hard
to think of the biggest challenge. The fact that we are friends has only been an advantage, and it’s made
the challenge of running businesses together much more enjoyable.
Q. How have you leveraged your experience running previous businesses together to run
Having already had experience working together, we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses,
which is so important when you’re building a business with someone else.
In terms of tech and operations, we definitely leverage our experience but try to keep an open mind.
Technology is moving fast so we try not to make assumptions about things that previously worked, as you
can’t assume that they will work again in a new business. However there’s a lot of fundamental things
that we know about the other person which makes the process easier.
Q. How do you approach splitting up responsibilities in the management of your business?
Nathan has always focussed on the operations and sales side in business, and I focussed more on the
technology, marketing and product. This is still loosely how the responsibilities are split, but there is
definitely overlap. These responsibilities were split given our experience when we started working
Q. Have you both discussed in what direction you want to see the business go?
Every day! This is an ongoing discussion. We are always weighing up different decisions together as the
Q. Are there any things you would have done differently when starting out?
It’s always easy in hindsight to look back and think about things that could have been done differently. I
don’t dwell on those things. I think it’s good to reflect and acknowledge mistakes as these are usually
learning opportunities, but it’s generally better to focus on the challenges confronting the business now.