Business and Friendships: Keeping the Lines Divided
Can business and friendships happily co-exist? Certainly, if the lines are
not crossed and respect is given from both sides. Much too often ill
feelings can arise when friends attempt to do business with each other.
One person crosses the line with their expectations of what they feel
should be acceptable behavior because of their friendship with the
business owner. I hear time and time again how this has happened to
many business owners, especially women in business.
It can become a vicious cycle if you are not careful. What can happen is
people become accustomed to the discounts or free offerings and when
you put a stop to them, they can become bitter and distant. All of a
sudden, in their eyes, you are not the wonderful, supportive, business
owner you used to be. You are no longer the person who gives out
discounts and "freebies". Unfortunately, some people consider a
business owner as being supportive only when they can benefit from that
business. They look at how their business can grow from the special
services and products offered to them at a discount or free. There are
others who feel they deserve the special treatment because they are a
family member, friend, or associate of the business owner.
I receive many emails and phone calls from women in business who don't
know what to do about their situation. They have family and friends taking
advantage of their services or products they sell and feel defeated because
their income is not what it needs to be. What started out as a one time
favor has turned into an expectation from them.
Awhile back I witnessed a conversation where one person was
complaining that she had approached a business about purchasing
product from them at a discount, and the company said "no". The
business owner had responded in honesty and stated that she could not
do that as she was trying to earn an income and build a business. This
makes perfect sense. How can a business grow or create any sort of
income if they are undercutting what they need to make? What I heard
next from the individual who had approached the company for a discount
surprised me even more. This person stated their frustration that they
couldn't receive a discount, then went on to say to their associates, "But I
know that I could ask any of you for this and you would do it." I thought
this was such an unfair assumption and expectation to put on people.
Could your business survive if you gave away your product and services
or if you gave everyone a discount? Not likely. Do not expect others to
offer what you are not willing to offer yourself. And do not expect others to
offer what you may already be offering. Each business is different. Each
has different budgets, expenses and goals.
Ask yourself the following questions: Are you expecting special treatment
and rewards? Do you put your friends on the spot to extend favors to you?
Do you judge other business owners by what you think they should be doing
for you? Do you get angry when you don't receive perks from your friends in
business? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to step
back and look closely at your motives and the way you conduct yourself in
When I resigned from my outside job to be a work at home mom, I needed
to replace the income I was making. This was the understanding that I made
with my husband, for our family. For almost the entire first year I found
myself continually giving free services, time, and even product to people. I
felt bad and even guilty every time I would hear of someone who didn't have
enough money or didn't have the proper skills/software to do what they
wanted in order to help their business grow. What ended up happening is
that I felt I couldn't say "no", and because of this, I put my family's finances
at risk. This was unfair to myself, my family and my business. I have had to
learn to say "no", and have had to learn to draw that line between business
and friendship. It is a struggle, and something that is still not fully resolved.
Am I saying that you should never help others by offering discounts and free
services? No, definitely not. What I am saying is that you need to be careful
and not fall into the trap of attempting to make everyone happy and of taking
care of everyone else’s problems. If you run your business this way, you will
run it right into the ground. Pick and choose what you can do for others.
Help others when you can - when you and your business can afford to. You
will find both you and your business will run more smoothly when putting
limits on your generosity.
Doing business with friends can work wonderfully and be beneficial if done
properly. By setting up some guidelines and having candid conversations up
front, you can have a business relationship with respect and understanding.
Guidelines to Follow:
1. When becoming a customer or client of a friend, don't expect any special
discounts or treatment. This is unfair to the business owner and directly
affects their livelihood. If you each want to extend a discount or other perks to
each other, be open and up front about whether it is feasible. Remember, if
your friend gave a discount to every friend/associate they had, they wouldn't
be able to make the income they need. You are not the one to judge what
another person needs to earn or should be earning.
2. Pay your bills on time. Do not treat your friend's business any different
than other companies you deal with. Put yourself in their position. What if all
of your customers/clients did not pay you when their bills are due? Paying
on time not only shows respect but is the right thing to do.
3. Don't take "no" personally. If your friend cannot offer you a free or
discounted service, respect that. She/he is attempting to run a business and
not only has their business expenses to pay, but an income to earn. It has
nothing to do with the type of person they are. Do not judge someone by
what you can receive for free from them. You do not know what their
situation is or all the free services/products that they already provide to
4. Do not over-extend yourself. Many times people allow themselves to be
taken advantage of out of guilt. They feel they need to help and offer their
services for free or at a discount to everyone. Unfortunately, some friends,
family members or acquaintances will try to make an individual feel guilty.
You know what you can and cannot do in the area of helping others. Do not
put yourself in a bind so that your business or family suffers - financially or
time wise. This is unfair to your family. You cannot be everything to
everybody. Be true to yourself, your values and your needs. This does not
mean you are being selfish. It means you are being realistic and will help
where and when you can.