How many of us have heard the expression that we “shouldn’t do business with friends and family?” As someone who once subscribed to this idea, I now realize just how wrong I was. My mother is my de facto personal assistant; my cousin designs our company t-shirts, and my brother has referred so many people that he has VIP status.
Their presence in my business life has made an incredible difference. My output is greater; I have generated new leads; and I have had a chance to meet and network with new clients. Just this past year, one of my former students, turned friend, starting working on projects with me.
Much like my experience with my biological family members, working directly with my friend has been an amazing experience. She is detail oriented, highly skilled, and flexible. In a fast-paced industry with tight deadlines and a diverse clientele, she has been an ideal addition to my team.
But what if I had dismissed her or my family members as potential team members simply because we are friends and family?
Why not work with family?
This question made me wonder: Why are some of us so quick to disqualify family and friends as potential clients, customers, and even business partner? I even tried to trace back to where my stance came from, considering the fact that I haven’t had any overtly negative experiences.
I guess I, like so many others, have heard so many cautionary tales from other entrepreneurs that I thought I was protecting myself.
But protecting myself from what?
Just as many of us would welcome a new client, a total stranger, on the assumption of good will, we need to think about how our friends and family may also be wonderful resources and ambassadors for our business endeavors. With an open mind, you may even find your next business partner at Thanksgiving dinner.
The importance of boundaries
The key is being clear about the line that you draw between your business and personal spheres. It may seem odd at first, but you want to make sure that you use the same safeguards that you would with others, including contracts where applicable. It is also important to talk about expectations up front.
Of course, it is perfectly feasible to offer a Friends and Family discount, but just make sure that it is an amount that you are comfortable with. Friends and family members who are serious about supporting you will respect your boundaries. They will also accept your policies and procedures.
Sometimes, they can become your biggest cheerleaders as they spread the word about your business with their networks and share your work with others. I have literally seen people expand their businesses exponentially because of their ability to work collaboratively with their kinship units.
The one advantage of potentially working with people who you know very well is that you can vet them before you do business with them. Drawing from past experiences and interactions, you can probably determine if it really is a good idea to proceed in a business-like capacity.
Know what you're getting into
The ones who are not able to respect your boundaries or who don’t have the work ethic that you desire are simply not good candidates to do business with. Because no transaction is worth severing familial bonds and friendships, if you are in doubt or not sure, it’s best not to move forward.
Even with the possibility that some familial transaction will not be positive ones, don’t miss out on potential business relationships that can have positive outcomes for everyone involved. You may want to start with one or two people to figure out how, or if, it will work for you. And you may even want to spend extra time prepping family and friends because they are familiar with you in a personal context, but they may not be familiar with you as a business person or as an employer. Remember, by drawing boundaries, you are protecting all parties involved.
Try it out
Still not sure? Well, if you have been hesitant before, give it a try!
Whether it is serving as a referral, a client, or even a partner, remember that family members and friends can turn out to be tremendous assets.