Me And My Partner: 'We always threw ideas around'

Harry Briggs and Marcus Waley-Cohen went to school together. They set up healthy drinks company Firefly Tonics in 2002, when they were both 25. Turnover this year is expected to reach £750,000

We started the company in mid-2002, just the two of us. But it took us a while to get going and it was another 12 months before we launched the first products.

Harry Briggs

We started the company in mid-2002, just the two of us. But it took us a while to get going and it was another 12 months before we launched the first products.

Marcus and I didn't become friends until later on at school. I was into music and can barely throw a ball, while Marcus was very sporty. We didn't have particularly similar social lives, either. We were friends more because we were interested in business, in ideas and in people. We really sparked off each other and we talked about going into business. People say never go into business with friends, one of the things that reassured me was that we were great friends, but we are very different.

Marcus's biggest feature is his knack for getting on with people. I remember travelling with him in Morocco and everyone we met, whether it was policemen marching up to us because we'd been driving too fast or the street hawker in the medina, they would all be his best friend within half a minute. There's no kind of person that Marcus can't get on with really quickly. He's very outgoing, slightly cheeky and always has a smile on his face. He enjoys life and it's very infectious. And I suppose I'm probably more of a thinker and a planner. I'm sure I get on with people fine, but I haven't got that instinctive charisma and charm.

The business side has taken over our relationship to a considerable extent. We spend a lot of time together in a small office with four people, so we won't have dinner or hang out at the weekends that often. But we're still great friends, and there's a social side in the business context, too. We have lunch together most days. We chat about all sorts of things. I think that's part of working well together.

Our roles in the company evolved gradually. The initial process was so intense that it didn't naturally divide. But once the business was running, it was clear that I worked well in certain situations, Marcus in others. Nowadays, I do a lot more of the marketing, our newsletters, point of sale materials, the website and the visual communication generally.

Marcus makes sure that the business runs well, like ensuring that the suppliers are doing the right things and getting us good prices. He also does the bulk of the sales and account management, especially our key London distributors.

Any big decision, we'll consult each other before we take it. We usually agree, though. I find that the process of asking someone else about a decision helps. By the time I've explained a problem to Marcus, the right decision has usually become pretty obvious.

We've certainly had arguments in the past. Particularly early on when we were in the middle of this hectic, creative process and there were just two of us in the office. There were times when it all got a bit quiet and slightly frosty.

The way we've learnt to deal with that is by getting things out in the open quickly. If one of us feels that something wasn't as good as it could have been, we'll say so and then we'll discuss it. Like any relationship, no-one benefits from covering things up.

Marcus Waley-Cohen

We were always throwing business ideas around at school, but it all seemed so far in the future. It was only later that we started to wonder if it could work.

After university I went to work for a consultancy in London. I wanted to get as much business exposure to as many things and as many people as possible. It was a definite strategy to give myself the best foundations on which to build a business in the future.

I didn't expect it to happen so quickly, though. But the Firefly opportunity came up and we both felt we had to strike while the timing was right.

I wasn't nervous about working with Harry. On the contrary, I thought it was a huge advantage. I'd rather work with someone that I know and trust and with whom I have a well developed relationship.

Harry is very good on detail. He's thorough and he's incredibly logical and good at analysing situations. I'm much more big picture. I'm good at making sure it includes the lay person - our customers. And I really enjoy talking to all sorts of people.

We've got a lot better at working together over the past three years. It was an intense experience. It is very healthy to have strong views, but it takes a while to find the best way of agreeing that you're both right. We understand the whole process much better now. It's a lot less emotionally exhausting than feeling you have to fight for your ground all the time.

The initial idea was that Harry was going to be the marketing director and I was going to be the commercial director, but the process of developing a new business encompasses so many different areas and moves so quickly that those categories become blurred almost immediately. Since then however, our roles have become more defined.

Our decision-making process is reasonably well defined, too. We'll agree the criteria and then one of us will use that framework to find the solution. We often have different views, but it is a way of clarifying what we are trying to achieve. Normally, it's a combination of both points of view.

We took on our first employee in June 2003, just before we launched. We'd started the first production run and we needed someone to help us. The job title was "head of getting things done". We both realised that we enjoyed the creative bit, but neither of us were good at following everything through to the final detail. We needed someone who was efficient and could make sure everything was tidied up

Going into business with Harry has had some very high ups and some low downs. We've spent a lot of time together and know each other very well, but we are very different. Which is perhaps why we became friends in the first place.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam