Adding a Professional Dimension to Personal Relationships

Today’s question centers on how to engage friends in business pursuits without damaging your personal relationships.  Specifically, Laura M. wrote,

“I think the hardest part of networking is learning how to add a professional dimension to personal relationships. We all know people in our personal lives with whom we could do business (mutually beneficial!), but I know people struggle with how to layer in business and still keep the personal relationships strong. It took me a long time to get comfortable with doing this, and I am still not very good at it!”

Laura’s right, this can be tricky! Plus, without over-generalizing, I believe there are some gender differences that come in to play when it comes to doing business with our friends.

In particular, men seem to handle this concept more effectively than women.  Men eagerly do business with their friends – they even hire them, when possible, to work with or alongside them.  When things don’t work out or get awkward, men air their grievances (they may even get angry or frustrated with one another), then they go out for a beer.  In fact, men tend to jump in quickly to do business together, irrespective of how well they know one another.  On the other hand, women tend not to rush into doing business with one another until they become better acquainted.  However, once they become close friends, they don’t want to “damage their friendship” by doing business together.  Vicious cycle!

I say this:  In my opinion, we are happiest when we bring together the various facets of our lives – that is home, work and community.  Sure, sometimes we should save a portion of home just for home, a portion of work just for work, etc.  Yet, when we seamlessly move from one to another, we can be more authentic in our dealings.

So, here’s my advice:

  • Gauge Interest. If you think there may be an opportunity to work together, ask your friend her or his comfort level in talking about a professional opportunity to collaborate and do some work together.
  • Maintain Integrity. Indicate to her/him that you want to ensure that your personal relationship remains untarnished and, as such, she/he can count on you to be an honest, transparent dealer in your professional interactions.
  • Share Your Ideas. Assuming she/he is interested in learning more, say more.
  • Protect Your Friendship. Hold yourself accountable for not getting angry or upset if she/he either declines the opportunity or suggests an alternative approach, even if it means you may feel some sense of disappointment or ultimately choose not to work together.
  • Ask for Advice and/or Referrals. If she/he does decline the opportunity, ask if she/he has a recommendation for someone else who may have an interest.

Do you do business with your friends?  What has worked… and not worked… for you as you have mixed personal and professional pursuits?  Please take a moment to share your experiences with the CLC Community.

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