For the past several months or so, I’ve made a huge effort to be more of a social person.
I’m one of those gals who is perfectly happy with spending the evening in reading a book or writing a blog post, wearing my wool socks and not a spot of makeup. I despise the bar scene and it’s like pulling teeth to get me to go out on a Saturday night. (Why do I live in NYC again!?) I swear, when I get married, I honestly think my Bachelorette party will consist of a crafting circle and loads of great wine. That’s just who I am!
Needless to say, my friends are not often pleased with my anti-social tendencies.
But I love my friends, and those relationships mean the world to me. You won’t hear me ever discount the joys of a proper work/life balance; I’ll always have time for my buddies.
But now that I run my own business, many of these friendships have taken on new meaning. And I’ll admit, some for the better…and a tiny few for the worse.
But it got me thinking, where is the fine line between a personal and business friendship? Is it possible to have both at the same time? And if so, how can you balance the two without jeopardizing your existing relationships along the way?
For the next four days, I’m going to delve deep into 4 of the most prevalent personal-friendship-to-business-relationship types out there. You’ve met these people – hell, you might BE these people! We’ll meet…
Let’s do some TRUTH TALKIN’ and start with the most awkward of personal and business relationships…managing a successful friendship with The Moocher .
These friends are like little wood nymphs, the quiet passerbys lurking in the forest, silent until they want a piece of your hard-earned, professional pie.
This might sound a bit harsh, but it’s a category that must be discussed. Becoming a Moocher is the #1 way to keep a personal friendship from flourishing into a future business relationship.
I experienced this the most when I first graduated from school. I worked in a high profile talent agency, while many of my friends and acquaintances were actors seeking representation. I had MANY people approach me, wanting to know if there was any way that I could use my contacts to get them signed at the agency.
And it wasn’t that I didn’t think they should have contacted me (they were being resourceful, which was great! And Lord knows I wanted to help them make those connections, if I could), but it was the manner in which it was done that sometimes felt awkward and put pressure on our existing relationship.
We are all Moochers at some point in time. It’s a fact of life. Sometimes you vaguely know someone who could really help your professional success. But it won’t help you move forward if your actions impede your existing friendships. Here are the key traits of The Moocher, and suggestions on how to turn the relationship around to a more positive direction.
• THE FAIL: The Moocher will ask for help, advice, or an introduction without a solid established relationship with you beforehand. You know the type, the person who hasn’t spoken to you in 5 years, but who asks for a major, life-altering favor via Facebook message. A big no-no.
• THE REMEDY: Seek to continually develop your relationships at all times, not only during the times when you need help or assistance. Surround yourself with people who are doing major things, people who can keep you motivated and inspired to reach your highest personal goals. Then, when the opportunity to work together presents itself, you will already have a solid foundation in which to grow your working relationship.
And let me repeat, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG with networking. A friend can be a valuable asset to introduce you to other major players. But make sure this conversation is a dialogue . The minute someone feels like you are “using” them, they will be less inclined to help you in the future.
• THE FAIL: Moochers expect that your existing friendship will grant them a magical business pass. They assume that you will automatically be invested in their mission due to your prior relationship, and they take that support for granted.
I once had a good friend of mine suggest that I promote his product. The thing was, he phrased the proposal as if HE would be doing ME a huge favor if I decided to give him free advertising.
Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?
And the funny thing was, I would have done it too – if he just would have asked nicely!
Instead, I was left feeling perplexed, a bit taken advantage of, and unsure on how our relationship could move forward in a business-related capacity.
I know this is etiquette 101, but a simple “Please” goes a looooong way.
An existing friendship does not automatically qualify you for business help. That kind of backwards thinking can make for friction within a relationship.
And business owners – don’t feel like you owe ANYONE ANYTHING. You must listen to your gut and know what feels right.
The ability to help your friends is a GREAT THING. But only you will know if entering into that type of relationship will prove to be beneficial for the both of you. This is where mixing personal friendship and business can be tricky. You don’t want to hurt your friend’s feelings, but at the same time you need to think about what would be best for your business and career.
Now is NOT the time to be a people-pleaser.
A Moocher will try to use their personal friendship with you to guilt you into doing things for them. A real business friend will understand and know that this opportunity might not be a good fit, but that doesn’t negate you from working together in the future. THAT is the difference.
If you think someone is taking advantage of your resources or success, listen to your gut and investigate further.
When money and reputation are involved, you might see someone’s true colors, which could be hurtful in your pursuit for a strong personal relationship.
If in doubt, tread the waters carefully. It’s not worth losing a friend over a business transaction. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
• THE REMEDY: You should treat your friends with even MORE support and respect than you would a total stranger. No assumptions should ever be made, and gratitude should ALWAYS be the gift for any support you might receive.
BONUS POINTS : Seek to find the value that you can give your friend in return. That’s how favors turn into real business opportunities. If you would like your friend to promote your product, offer to send them one to sample for free, or create a friends and family affiliate program where they will receive a small cut of the proceeds from any purchasing referrals that they create. Now, THAT’S a thank you!
• THE FAIL : Because you are friends, Moochers assume your help will carry them to success without any effort of their own.
I once recommended a friend for a wonderful job opening. I boasted about her skill and stellar personality, all of which I 100% stood behind and supported. She ended up being 45 minutes late for the interview and completely lacked enthusiasm. She assumed that my glowing recommendation automatically secured her the job. Needless to say, she didn’t get the position and my reputation with the company was severely hurt by her performance.
I know many other friends who have experienced the same type of situation and word gets around . Not only are you hurting your chances for future help and recommendations with your friend, but there is a good chance that you could be excluded from their contacts as well, if they choose to share the story about how they were burned by your actions.
• THE REMEDY: If a friend DOES put themselves out on the line for you, exceed their wildest expectations . You make your friend look good if you do your best, which will bolster your working relationship AND will put you at the forefront for future opportunities that might arise.
That’s why mentor relationships work so well. I have an INCREDIBLE mentor in my life, and although we no longer work in the same industry, I value her advice and respect her in so many ways. She has opened countless amount of doors for me in my career. Anytime she suggests me for a new opportunity, I recognize that she is entrusting me with a smidgen of her name and reputation. And she knows beyond a doubt that I am there for her, whenever she needs anything at all.
When transitioning from personal to business friendship, trust is key.
BONUS POINTS: If you get a job because of a friend, THANK THEM! It’s such a small act, but it packs a major punch.
It amazes me when I find out that a friend of mine got a job because of my recommendation… and they didn’t even take the time to tell me, or say a quick thank you. It makes it harder for me to justify helping them in the future if they don’t value my time and effort when doing so.
I don’t mean to be rude, but that’s truth talkin’ – burn these lessons into your mind before they burn you.
So what can we learn from our Moocher relationships? And how can we ditch the Moocher tendencies within ourselves?
First of all, not all friendships are meant to translate into business relationships, so don’t beat yourself up too hard.
You’ll know what feels right, so listen to your gut. If you are interested in working with a friend, or a friend has approached you in a way that doesn’t resonate with how you like to do business– the best thing to do is focus on the personal friendship at hand.
Don’t let the big, bad “BUSINESS” word scare you.
Treat the person exactly how you would want to be treated.
I think, especially as we just start out in our careers, it’s easy for ambition and drive to cloud our ability to remember what’s at the CORE of all relationships, personal or otherwise. People are people and no matter if you are launching a product together or going out for a girls brunch – the same rules apply.
The few business Moochers I’ve known are completely lovely and valuable personal friends in my life, so I understand and know that with some finesse and care, our relationship can develop professionally in the future. It just takes time.
Have you encountered some business Moochers in your career? How have you navigated the differences between your professional and personal lives?
Share with me your tips and tricks in the comment section below!
And if you feel like a few of your friends could use a little friendly reminder, and let it work its magic. And check out the next post in this series to learn about the dreamiest of business relationships; a group of friends I like to call “The Light Bulbs!” Don’t want to miss a post? Follow Soultiply on or Twitter !