Mixing business and friendship

Consulting tends to be a people business and people like to do business with people they know. Every so often, you may be approached to by a friend who has a great personality but makes a lousy business partner.

Many years ago, I fell ill and knew I wouldn’t be able to complete a project. My client knew one of my friends and asked if I’d feel comfortable with him finishing the project. I said I wasn’t sure he’d be a good candidate. But the client was desperate to have someone put the finishing touches on my project and couldn’t wait for me to recover (it was a major health issue).

Well, the friend – let’s call him Joe – had some experience and skills that were similar to mine. But that’s where it ended. Joe had absolutely dismal writing skills – and this was a writing project. The client asked me to mentor Joe, but I knew it was a lost cause. Joe really couldn’t write. My client soon realized their mistake in inviting Joe to work on the project. I ended up having to take over Joe’s work from my sick bed. I had to work like crazy to finish the project. And Joe was miffed that someone thought his writing skills needed work. His nose got out of joint and I don’t think he ever recovered. I learned my lesson – I never again worked on a project with someone who struck me as less than solid in their professional skills.

In the situation above, I was very ill and had a desperate client. Normally, I wouldn’t have partnered with someone like Joe. But I know other consultants who fall prey to social pressures over and over again. They end up taking on a partner because they want to preserve a friendship.

If you want to preserve a friendship, don’t do business with a shaky friend. What’s that saying? Don’t mix business and friendship? It’s bang on.
 
Should a friend ask you to work with them when you think it’s a bad idea, you can:

  • Say that you don’t like to mix business and friendship
  • Thank them for the compliment, but say it’s not a good fit right now.
  • Let them know the timing isn’t right – this leaves the door open for future work, since, down the road, they may have a better skill set or approach.
  • Point them to someone else who can help

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