Business In Mixed Company

Sometimes the most challenging people to do business with are our friends and family.  And mind you, these may be the same people who encouraged us to start our own business in the first place.  So, why does it seem like we have the most problems doing business with family members or friends?

Well, let’s backtrack for a second.  When we made the decision to go into business for ourselves, who were the first people we reached out to?  Our friends and family.  We all have varying experiences in the receptiveness from those said friends and family, but nonetheless, those were the people we talked to first and introduced our business idea to.  It’s always easier to reach out to people we know initially rather than reaching out to complete strangers.  It gets less challenging over time, but when we’re starting out, we go to what’s familiar.  It’s human nature.

And once a few close friends and family decided, sure, they would jump on aboard, we may have even let them name their price.  After all, we’re trying to build a business and we can use all the exposure, clients and activity we can get.  Yet, let’s be honest, here.  There might have been occasions, where the people we know the best took more of an advantage than we liked, but we quietly ignored it and moved on.  We thought in the back of our minds that it was going to pay off in the long run.   We thought we could could use Uncle Dave as a testimonial for the business and cousin Stacy has always been good with spreading the word.  But, what happens when we can no longer provide that discounted favor to friends and family anymore?  We are trying to run a business and it’s nothing personal, but we need to stay afloat too.

Doing business with family and friends is probably the reason why there are so many adages about mixing business with pleasure or mixing business with close ones.  Despite the warnings, it’s issue that can be handled with care professionalism as long as we’re mindful and honest.

For starters, we know our friends and family just like they know us.  And we know who has a tendency to flake out.  So before inviting your inner circle to be your first clients or customers, mentally weed out who you can trust to be fair with you.  Secondly, it’s all business and we need to handle it as such.  It might seem too akward to have our best friend or mom sign documents stating they agree to the terms and policy of our business, but, it’s also necessary.  If it’s too uncomfortable, simply email.  State the agreed upon terms as they stand now and what they could be in the foreseeable future. Whether it’s an increase in cost, decrease in time, or accessibility, stated it in an email.  (If you’ve ever caught an episode of Judge Judy, you know someone’s word will not hold up in court, God forbid it should go that far.)  The point being, we need something in writing, so that the terms are clearly present up fronted and any negotiations can be made then.  Finally, if you find yourself in a confrontation over changes, explain what the situation honestly, ask for feedback if there is anything you can do to accommodate those changes without having to take a step back and try to find a middle ground.  If not, don’t be afraid to end the professional relationship.  No one’s in business to be out of business.  Let them know as cordially as you can that you can no longer provide that product or service at the price that had it because business demands that you keep up with your expenses.  They might understand, they might understand, they might not.

At the end of the day, it’s business and we don’t want to take any personal prisoners.




“The family seems to have two predominant functions: to provide warmth and love in time of need and to drive each other insane.” – Donald G. Smith


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