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Doing Business with Friends
without Jeopardizing the Friendship

When you work with or for a friend, how do you get the job done without jeopardizing the friendship? At a recent meeting of the MetroWest Business Associates we discussed working with friends and formulated guidelines for making these types of relationships succeed.

Deciding Whether To Work with a Friend

  • Adhere to your usual standards for accepting engagements. Only work with friends if they have the same values, work ethics, and goals as you do.
  • Tactfully reject the opportunity if it is not appropriate or if it will endanger the relationship. ("It is not my area of expertise. I am happy to recommend someone else.")

Working with a Friend

  • Clarify expectations at the onset concerning terms, results, and compensation. Communicate openly to ensure success.
  • Verify that the friend's needs match your areas of competence. Relationships fail when there is a bad match.
  • Establish roles and rules that will govern the business relationship. Note that the social and the business relationship have different rules, and remind the friend that the rules apply to both of you.
  • Define each person's tasks and deadlines. Emphasize that each of you must do his/her part.
  • Establish fees and payment terms. Discounting is sometimes appropriate, but carefully weigh the pros and cons.
  • Remember that when a friend refers business, you have two clients to please-- especially if you want more referrals.

When a Customer Becomes a Friend

In the ideal customer relationship, the customer is so comfortable with you that you are the go-to person for your particular product or service. Develop trust. But

  • Remain business-like. Draw a line between the business relationship and the personal relationship, and make sure the customer knows where the line is.
  • Don't take the customer, the relationship, and the possibility of future work for granted. Assume that you will have to re-win each new assignment.
  • Cultivate relationships with others in the company. The friend may move to another department or company.

When you work with or for a friend, you have two challenges: complete the specified work and protect the personal relationship. Success is more likely if you first clarify expectations and roles. End the business relationship if it is not working. (" I am firing you as a customer, but keeping you as a friend.")

We provide customer intelligence for growing companies.

Copyright 10/12 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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