Winning Words

Mixing business with friendship can work

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Like me, you have probably heard this saying repeatedly, “Never mix business with friendship.” You may have even had an experience that didn’t turn out so well when you tried to partner with a friend on a business endeavor or worked with a friend to help you do your taxes, provide you insurance, sell or buy your home, fix your plumbing, help you make an investment, or any number of other situations that went horribly sideways.

Let me ask this question, was it the friendship or was it the situation itself? Was it the friendship or was it something else that went wrong? Did a third party have something to do with? Think about it for a moment. And if you still believe it was your friend, perhaps we need to go back and define what friendship means or how we define our particular friendships.

Friends, especially close friends, deal with disagreements and conflicts throughout the friendship. But the friendship is so deep and trusted that if something goes wrong or sideways, they always know how to get beyond the specific incident or circumstance. In most cases anyway.

Over my career I have made tremendous friends. Clients who have become friends, and partners who have become friends. It has worked the other way as well, friends who have become clients and friends who have become partners. I have been hired by friends and I have hired friends. And, luckily for me it has almost always worked out well.

Some will say that one might make concessions for friends or treat them differently. Some may argue that it’s hard to talk about money or ask for money from a friend. And still others will stand behind this concept that a client cannot become a friend because you will never be willing to raise your price or ask for more money — the preference being to preserve the friendship rather than tell them that there has been a price increase.

So, here’s the difference, a friend is a friend at all times. A friend is someone who will tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. A friend is someone you can trust with any project that they are capable of doing. A friend is someone who will stand by you when prices go up or down, when business is good or bad, and who is there for the wins and the losses.

It’s when we ask our friends to do something that we know is not in their sweet spot, not their strength, that’s when things go wrong. We set them up for failure. It’s when we don’t set proper expectations regarding performance, that’s another huge area where we often fall short and the friendship can be placed at risk.

You see, I would rather go into business with a true and trusted friend. I have done so a few times and we are still friends today. I would rather hire a friend who has the experience, qualifications, and track record of success to do the job, who knows I will have their back, and who will always have mine. Am I afraid that one day the business relationship will end? Maybe. Am I worried that it will also end the friendship? Never.

The next time you ask your friend to fix your car, sell your house, or go into business together, make sure you both define your friendship first. Then set proper expectations, putting trust and your friendship before any business, and always understand what happens should anything go wrong.

For me, I would always prefer doing business with a trusted friend. If I can’t, then I look for the next most qualified person, business, or company to help me. How about you? Whether you have had a great friend/business experience or a bad one, I would love to hear it at gotonorton@gmail.com. And when we can work well with our trusted friends, it really will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a resident of Highlands Ranch, the chief revenue officer at Eventus Solutions Group, a strategic consultant and a business and personal coach.

Michael Norton

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