Friday, December 9, 2011
Friends with benefits
We are always told to friend up the ladder, network with people who are more progressive than we are to pave way for our own progress. It is all in good faith. When you are running a business, chances are you will look through your list of friends from the Golf Club, Fathers’ Union, and Old Boys (Girls) Association for business partners and suppliers. Heck, you may even have a few employees sourced that way.
At work and in business, we would like to achieve the best with the least of resources, also knowing who you are dealing with has its advantages. There is trust already built and you are likely to spend less establishing how genuine they or their businesses are. There is also an implied trickle-down effect that when one of you gets ahead the rest benefit, however indirectly.
When a business relationship with a friend goes well, the resulting dynamic can be very rewarding. A true friend always has your back, and when that friend is a key business supplier or partner, they have your back -- and your bottom line!
One of the best ways friends can support you is to buy stuff from you to help keep you in business. There are many cultures that are centered on this very idea, which is why those cultures tend to do well in business.
But sometimes the results may not be as rosy. It is wise to develop business guidelines and stick to them whenever you are dealing with stakeholders. These guidelines are meant to protect the business. Friends and relatives who may be suppliers or doing business with you need to follow the same guidelines.
It may be hard enforcing difficult clauses in a contract for example when a supplier does not deliver or delivers defective goods. You need to show them right from the start that friendship may have got them the business but trust and mutual agreement is for the good of everyone. That is how business is.
You may feel obligated to give them a cheap deal, which means you lose money and time, so you put them off and procrastinate getting their project going. But this is a mistake to feel this way, because your friends may just want to support your business and may feel great being able to pay you for your services.
For starters, don’t expect or demand of a friend who also runs a business that which you would not expect any other business partners of. It is not fair and once the business suffers as a result, so will the friendship. This is regarded as taking undue advantage of friendship. Even with great friendship over the years, do not demand that one gives you a contract or tender which you do not qualify for. You would not want the same demand made to you. It is not business-like.
In cases like these, it’s important to take the friend factor out of the equation and consider if you would really work with the person or their business if they were a stranger. That's because running a business is much different than maintaining a friendship.
So when a friend asks you to quickly draw up a masterpiece logo for their consulting business, work up a price quote for them, in writing. This will avoid the problem of a possible misunderstanding and eliminate wrong assumptions that can embarrass you as well as affect your friendship, the reason you got to work together in the first place.
Sometimes acquaintances are hoping for a freebie without coming out and asking for one, by putting it all on paper, it takes away that uncomfortable conversation that could possibly happen – paperwork keeps the transaction business-like and professional. A professional price quote helps the “client” remember that is what they are when asking for work – a client, not a friend.
If this fine line is well balanced, you will all prosper and so will your friendship. I mean you have more reason to be together and share. But that is if you drew the line right from the start to avoid any bruises both to business and to friendship. If you focus on doing things right as well as doing the right things, the friendship may flourish along with the success of your mutual relationship.