The relationships that we build often define how we run our businesses just as much as the personal decisions that we make. If you want to make your business venture a success, then you’re going to need to find allies to back you up. However, entrepreneurs need to consider another kind of networking: making genuine and lasting friendships with other business owners. The best kinds of friends are those who understand your role and responsibility, and are able to keep up with your lifestyle.
Make friends outside your industry
A lot of your connections and the business owners that you currently know might be within your own industry. If you end up naturally forming a friendship with them, then that’s fine. However, you might want to avoid getting too personally close with people in your field of work. It’s all too easy for business rivalries to cross over into your personal relationships. Even if your friend isn’t a direct competitor, if they get into a business deal with one of yours, then it’s going to sting and harm the friendship. Best to attend more general business networking groups and be open to talking to more people there.
Don’t be afraid of talking shop
It’s a common refrain that people in the same profession should find things to talk about other than business, which is usually true. However, entrepreneurs and business owners are built different. Outside of family life and some hobbies, your business is likely to be your life. You need to be dedicated to it. What’s more, business is a shared interest, so you shouldn’t avoid talking about it if the topic arises. You should, however, make sure that you listen as much as you talk. Show an interest in their lives and how things are going for them. Just be careful about avoiding too much unsolicited advice. You don’t want to come across as running their business for them.
There is always that desire and the almost instinctual reaction to “brand yourself” when you’re interacting with anyone in the business world. There is something to be said for keeping your most deeply private life, such as your family, to yourself except for people you develop extremely personal and good friendships with. Otherwise, however, you should be willing to let the shield of personal branding slip. Be natural and genuine with the people that you’re trying to build your friendship with. Remember, they are in business too. If you try and serve them up some insincerity, they’re likely going to be able to smell it just fine.
Support them during their successes
Throughout your friendship, you are hopefully going to be celebrating many of your own successes in the business world. You’re going to appreciate it when your friends notice this and give you their congratulations. As such, you should be right there with your friends when they make their own achievements. Entrepreneurs can be ambitious and even envious, at times. You need to be able to push those feelings aside. For instance, you can think of great business owner gifts that you can send them after they have made their achievement alongside a card that gives them your heartful congratulations. They’re going to remember that support and it can help them see your real investment in them and their aspirations.
Make time for contact
One of the common problems that any business owner is going to face is that they can have trouble finding the time to spend with the people that they want to. However, there’s a point where excuses don’t cut it. For that reason, you should make sure that you always have plans to meet good friends of yours. It can be a quick lunch meeting in the city during the work day, or the occasional weekend night spent getting dinner. Once you’re done with your previous plans, then start looking at your schedule for the next time you’re free. Of course, you need to take into account where your family and other obligations fit into this schedule, not just your work. But if you’re not able to make some room for the other parts of your life, then you’re not running your business as well as you might think you are.
Find a hobby to share
An easy way to find an opportunity to bring you and your friends together is to find a hobby that you can share. It can be something that you do one-on-one with them, but a group activity is not only going to help it feel more casual, it can help both of you grow those business friendships that can be so important, professionally and personally. Golf is a traditional choice but you might find it’s one that isn’t as popular amongst the “silicon valley” generation of entrepreneurs. Poker can be a lot more universal in its appeal and with little touches like custom playing card printing, you can make your card set. It makes the game feel a little more exclusive while also letting you flex a little.
Don’t be afraid to lend your network
As we’re going to discuss later, you want to be careful about how much you tangle up your professional life and your personal life. However, if you’re able to lend a connection that can help a friend who has come to you with a problem, it can be a great way to show your support without getting too deeply involved in a risky business relationship. Sure, there might be some risk of the relationship going horribly wrong and one of the two parties blaming you for that, but you just need to make sure that you have the quality of the network that you would be happy to share.
Know your different types of friendships
Crossing boundaries inadvertently or having people step over yours can be embarrassing, to say the least. It can damage the friendships that you have, as well. When it comes to business friends, you need to consider both the quantity and the quality that you want. For instance, if you have a good working relationship with someone, that might not translate into a good friendship. Vice versa is true as well. Someone who is a golf or poker buddy might not make for a good person to go out and have dinner with, either. People who live highly professional lives are going to have different barriers up for different people. You should both respect theirs and do the same, yourself.
Don’t mix business and pleasure
This is advice that you and almost every other entrepreneur have heard at least a dozen times and, yet, there are always those who ignore it. Yes, there are going to be examples of good friends who go into business with each other and make a success out of it. However, even in those exceptional cases, the relationship is going to change as soon as you go into business with each other. If a friend offers a venture for you to go out on, bear in mind that you are not going to be the same type of friends on the other side of it. Of course, in more cases than not, getting into business together actively harms your personal relationship, so you have to be careful.
You are going to find your most reliable friends from your peer group. For entrepreneurs, that means making friends with other entrepreneurs. Be more open to making social engagements with other business owners, and invest in them.