I was watching a show the other day that centered around a couple in search of a new home. It was their first time buying a house and in order to ease their unfamiliarity with the task, they hired a realtor who happened to be a close friend of the two. Needless to say, it made for entertaining television to see these potential homeowners eventually drive their realtor friend completely batty.
Watching the trio reminded me of just how tricky it can be to do business with a friend. But, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. At some point a personal relationship is going to cross the line into a professional relationship. Someone you’re close to is going to ask for your professional help or you may decide to go into business with a family member of friend.
Regardless of what business road you take with them, it’s important to make the transition from personal to business as seamless as possible. Consider working with a friend who shares similar work ethics and values your professional opinion, as well as your personal one. You’ll also want to establish that this is a working relationship, not a personal one. The two are separate and all should do their best to recognize this important fact and maintain the distinction between the two.
It’s also a good idea to discuss everyone’s expectations. Your friend may believe that they are entitled to special treatment such as reduced work rates, having you available to them 24/7, or ignoring your other clients entirely while you tend to them first. To curb any unrealistic expectations, communicate to your friend specifics, such as the amount of hours you’ll be dedicating to them on a business level, what you’ll be doing, how you will go about doing it, goals, deadlines, etc.
Whatever you do, don’t lose your objectivity. It’s very easy to bend your professional ways because this person is your friend or family member. Don’t become someone you’re not professionally due to the close, personal relationship you share. Treat them like you would any other client/co-worker. Hold them accountable and hold yourself accountable, too.
Transitioning a personal relationship into a business relationship can be a risk, but one worth taking if both parties understand what’s involved to make it successful.