Should you expect your friends to support you in your business?

This is a topic I’ve wanted to write about for a while and it’s something that’s been coming up often so here goes…

I did work for someone I consider a friend – and they did not pay me. This got me thinking: should your friends support you when you have a small business; especially since you support them by engaging and buying their products and services?

When I started my business 2.5 years ago, I had huge expectations and one of them was that my friends would indeed support me and use my services; but needless to say this did not happen. After many disappointments I made peace with it. I put it down to them having their reasons and that it’s ok. I’ve tried asking but the look of discomfort on their faces told me not to press the issue.

I chose to then just practise what I preach and I started supporting some friends in their various business ventures. They may not be supporting me and my business but I chose to still support them. In all honesty, this has not been easy. Sometimes supporting my friends makes me happy and sometimes I’m disappointed and a bit disgruntled. In a few instances, it’s even led to some major friction between me and some of these friends.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you decide on going ahead with supporting your friends’ businesses or if you are the business being supported:

Do – (if you are the client to your friend or visa versa):

  • Be very specific about the outcome – the delivery that you expect or is expected of you. I did work for a friend who kept changing the scope. After working all night to deliver the final outcome, the feedback I got was that I did not meet the brief requirements (a brief that was never actually written) and I was not paid for my services.
  • Be honest about your timeline and delivery – clearly communicate this at every stage of the process. If you are the supplier and your friend is the client, be honest about when you can deliver. If your friend is a supplier, ask for specific deliverables and milestone updates.
  • Be professional at all times – separate friendship from business with the tone. If you are the client, provide a brief. If you are the supplier, provide a proposal to the given brief.
  • Be transparent about your costs – and when the costs are questioned, be gracious about it. I commissioned a friend to do some work for me but I was unhappy with the outcome and the heavy costs involved. I now wish I had the courage to say something and negotiate a better outcome – either pay less or get what I wanted. If the cost doesn’t feel right, say no thanks or negotiate.
  • Constant communication is key – As the supplier, give feedback and commentary as often as you can. As the client, ask for constant feedback.

Don’t – (if you are the client to your friend or visa versa):

  • Take your friends for granted – just because you are friends does not mean you are not liable to pay for their services.
  • Be unprofessional in your dealings.
  • Charge less or overcharge – just because you are friends.
  • Use manipulation to get your own way or to get them to support you.

These are just some of the lessons I’ve learned over time and I now find myself applying to be able to moving forward. Some friends are deserving of my support and I will continue to do so, while there are others that I will not be returning to anytime soon.

I am all for supporting friends’ businesses but I’m also learning to give energy and help to where it’s reciprocated. My philosophy is help each other and make the circle bigger. However, if friends don’t support me in my business – then so be it. It’s probably easier in the long run.

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