Updated: Feb 19
Are you an entrepreneur or small business owner? Has balancing your business and balancing relationships become a delicate subject? When clear expectations aren't set, things can get tense.
We've all seen social media posts about supporting family and friends in their business endeavors. If you're African-American, there is the added pressure of supporting black-owned businesses. Asking for support and maintaining relationships is a balancing act when the two cross.
Let's get real. More than 500,000 new businesses are started each month, and half won't survive five years. With these numbers, it is unrealistic to assume you are the only entrepreneur or business owner in your circle. Imagine your friend's social media pages being filled with business promotions and little left for family pics and personal posts. Does that seem fair?
The lack of definitive direction is often where the discord begins.
Are you wondering how to create boundaries when it comes to friendships and business relationships? Keep reading for seven things entrepreneurs can do to find balance in their relationships.
Becoming an Entrepreneur Shouldn't Ruin Relationships
Unfortunately, some people shy away from their entrepreneurial friends because they don't want to get pressured into making a purchase. Others don't want to support their family and friends in business out of jealousy.
Becoming an entrepreneur means having tough skin. Regardless of how people react to your decision to go into business, it's about them and not you. Once the word is out that you've taken a leap of faith into entrepreneurship, your goal is to market your business and create a solid client base.
No one has ever become successful, relying solely on the support of family and friends.
Knowing someone personally who is an entrepreneur is a blessing and not a curse. Your expertise will lift your standing in the community and beyond. The growth of the business is a way to create opportunities for others.
Become an inspiration to the people around you and inspire them to pursue their dreams. Accomplish this by understanding professional boundaries are par for the course. Eliminate opportunities for hurt feelings, false expectations, and miscommunications.
1. Create a Business Plan for a Direct Path to Success
One of the most important parts of starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur is having a business plan. The biggest shortcoming and why businesses fail within the first five years is a lack of financial resources. These shortcomings are due in part to not having a clear understanding of how much it costs to run a business.
It's an honor for family and friends to support your endeavors. What it's not is a requirement or obligation. In the beginning, it is human nature to expect the people closest to you to be your biggest cheerleaders. However, it is not a sustainable business model.
Everything someone does to help gain exposure is appreciated, and you should acknowledge the good deed. As entrepreneurs, we should also empower people with the freedom to say "no."
If someone is not on your payroll, they should not feel pressured into becoming a brand advocate for your business. Please don't ruin a relationship by harboring ill will when people do not support you how you feel they should.
Expecting free labor, free marketing, and unending support is unrealistic and a recipe for failure. The following topics are addressed in a sound business plan.
Creating the document ensures you understand the bigger picture when it comes to becoming a success. You'll begin to see the bigger of what entrepreneurship is all about.
2. Ask for Honest Feedback but Don't Expect It
If you want honest feedback from family and friends, you need to ask for it. Even then, don't expect the same response you would get from a business consultant. When it comes to personal relationships, the people who know and love you don't want to hurt your feelings.
Plus, they may not know how to provide the constructive criticism needed to tweak performance.
When you're becoming an entrepreneur, investing in your business is vital to success. There are many cost-effective tools available to gain insights and measure how a business is doing.
Today there are apps for everything. If you want to know what people think, do an online reputation check-up. Invest in tools that monitor online reviews from social media, review sites, and your website. The software will also help determine your online business ranking.
These apps work best when you ask customers for reviews and feedback. Use the responses to improve where needed and build on your strengths.
3. Don't Compensate People with Discounts and Free Products/Services
Becoming an entrepreneur presents occasions when you need a little help from your friends. Don't shortchange the people in your inner circle by compensating them with your business's free products and services. If they ask, it is one thing, but don't assume a free book or massage or meal is an even exchange for their time and skills.
Ask yourself first what is the value of their time. Are you asking someone to volunteer eight hours to help you out? Calculate the cost-savings of the time spent and tasks done. Write a thank-you note and give a monetary gift or something of equal value not related to your business.
Maybe you’ve had situations where you ask a friend to check out an electrical problem in your store? Or, maybe your receptionist called out, and your cousin stopped by, so you asked her to answer the phones. Always offer to pay for their time and service and follow-up with some gratitude.
People might not come around as often because they feel used and taken advantage of by the business owners seeking free labor.
4. Let People Know If You're a Full-time or Part-time Entrepreneur
Depending on how serious you are about becoming an entrepreneur, the people around you may not know what to make of your endeavor. Suppose you are not consistently working at your craft or business. In that case, the people closest to you don't know if you're in it full-time, part-time, or occasionally.
I've been an entrepreneur for 15 years. In the beginning, it was something I did on the side to help friends. After getting laid-off from my last corporate position, I decided to put my skills to work full-time.
Every now and then, I get a call, text, or email about a job opening from someone. It used to annoy me to no end. I soon learned to laugh it off because, in all honesty, I don't talk much about what I'm doing with my business with friends and family.
Entrepreneurs are sensitive at times, even when they aren't the best communicators. If someone asks for an update on your business, let them know what you're up to. It's never good to assume they see you out here on your grind.
5. When Friends Rave about Your Competitors Use it as a Learning Tool
If you're an entrepreneur, you've probably experienced this at some point. Someone who knows you personally constantly talks about a competitor in your presence. They know you sell jewelry, but instead of asking what you have new, they talk about the great pieces someone else is selling.
This is a big problem in the food industry, whether you have a full-service restaurant or operate under cottage food laws. It seems as if the people you know are always sharing what great meals they purchased from someone else. It can feel as if they’re working promotions for another business in an attempt to make you doubt your cooking skills.
Don't get angry. Instead, ask the person, what can you do better to get their business. If they support your business, ask for a cross-comparison in case you need to tweak some recipes or your business model.
Sometimes people don't make the connection or realize what they are saying is making you second-guess the quality of your product or service.
6. Set Boundaries When Asked to Critique Competitors
Competitor critiques are when someone knows you provide a service but will use another business. To add insult, before paying for the service, they come to you for a professional opinion. Let's look at two common scenarios.
Scenario 1 – I went Behind Your Back
Service is performed for a friend that requires a third-party business. During the transaction, they learn the name of your third-party industry partner. Months later, an email arrives asking for a professional opinion on a purchase they made directly from the third-party provider.
Scenario 2 – Can You Look This Over
You're approached by someone who wants to know if you can look over a proposal for a service you provide but they sought from another business. They need your expert opinion on whether the price is right and if they are asking the right questions.
Yes! This is a thing. Whether it's innocent or intentional, don't let it slide—set boundaries. Let family and friends know you're happy they recognize your expertise. Use it as an opportunity to remind them of the services your business provides.
Keep it classy but also let them know if you're not considered for the job, please do not ask your professional opinion on someone else's product, service, or price structure.
7. Collaborate with Other Entrepreneurs
We're stronger together. Build a network of like-minded entrepreneurs and help each other grow. A mistake some entrepreneurs make is trying to become a Jack of all trades. It's okay in the beginning if funds aren't available. At some point, you'll need to work with a professional in areas that aren’t your strong suit.
After your business grows and you have clientele, create cross-promotional opportunities with other entrepreneurs for services you aren't equipped to complete.
If you're helping a client with brand building, look for someone with a printing, t-shirt, and related businesses. Someone with a catering business might be great at main dishes but could benefit from a baker's services.
Collaborations are how we all win and a great way to help your family and friends become successful.
Create Balance Between Entrepreneurship and Personal Relationships
Becoming an entrepreneur will have its struggles, but it is a beautiful thing. The difference between an entrepreneur and a small business owner is entrepreneurs are the concept, employee, and finder of resources.
Finding balance is intentional when it comes to personal relationships. It is up to you to set boundaries and acknowledge when they are crossed.
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Peace & Love!
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Tracy L. Darity, is the author of He Me Loves Me He Loves Me Not!, Love…Like Snow in Florida On a Hot Summer Day, and The Red Bear Society. Her much-anticipated non-fiction work When Sunday Comes Will I Still Believe God will be released in 2021.