I’m sure you’ve heard the advice before: “Never start a business with your friends or family or it will wreck your relationship.”
But have you also heard the advice, even if you started your own business, you should NEVER, and I mean NEVER ask your (non-entrepreneurial) friends for help.
I have ran my business for years, had several employees, but in the early days, got some help from friends and boy was that a mistake. Those bad experiences were actually the catalyst that launched my business forward with full time employees.
1. Your Non-Business Friends Overvalue Their Time
Whether it’s being in the same room as you while you come up with your new business idea or asking for some help to pack your car for an event, your friends will demand payment, store credit, royalties, and a co-founding position if you dare ask them to even lift a finger to help you with your business.
The reason is pretty simple: as soon as you start a business, your non-business owner friends instantly think of you as some successful, rich, powerful business owner portrayed in the movies.
They are literally unable to see the true reality that running a business may instantly begin a debt snowball that you will be working 24 hour shifts just to break even, and at times, not even pay yourself!
It’s hard for your non-business friends to see this because they can work their day-job at Wall-Mart literally standing around and making $15/hour while you slave your ass off and probably don’t even make $10/hour!
They are employee minded individuals, forever bound to this idea that their TIME is always sold for money.
The entrepreneur knows the true difference, which is that RESULTS are sold for money.
Your non-business friends can’t see this and they will forever plague you with demands for payments and expectations of minimum wage, etc, for even the most minuscule help.
Of course, it’s in their every right to demand payment for their help. Just because you are friends, doesn’t mean they have any obligation to help you for free! If you thought your friends would be excited enough about helping you make money, you’re wrong! Most friends just want to have fun and waste time together.
Don’t ruin good times with your friends over your business, it’s not worth it!
2. Your Friends Won’t be as Helpful as you Think
Let’s assume you friends actually did say YES to help you out completely for FREE at a convention.
What could go wrong with some extra hands at the booth?
Well now this puts you in a very weird position. Your friends accepted to help you for free out of the kindness of their hearts. How can you boss them around now?
Unlike employees who you can give orders to and they’ll follow, you can’t just start bossing your friends around can you? If you’re too demanding with them, they might walk away or worse, think you’re a jerk!
It’s also fair to understand that your friends probably don’t know anything about your business, your goals, costs, etc, so they may be at a loss of what is critical and what isn’t important.
For example, one friend might feel like they have done some very important work by giving your business card to someone and explaining your business to them. As entrepreneurs, we know that you’re going to be handing out at least 50 business cards for every 1 serious lead.
As employee minded individuals, they aren’t necessarily thinking about the long term game, and are more interested in mentally patting themselves on the back for the elaborate explaining and patience they demonstrated with that person.
Either way, you’re going to get sub-par work and be in a position where you can’t ask for too much!
3. Your Friends Just Don’t Care (About Business in General)
Don’t take it personally when you find this out the hard way, but talks about profits, sales, and marketing really aren’t all that interesting to non-business people.
While you might be very proud of the business you have created and you may be fascinated with the success of others, your friends probably could care less.
And it’s not about your success or even being jealous (but some of them might be jealous), the reality is that while you may be passionate about your business and the work you do, mostly likely your employee minded friends hate their job and spend their days waiting for the clock to hit 5pm!
If your friends are talking about work, it’s most likely complaining rather than constructive or positive enthusiasm.
So just remember this the next time you get all excited about your business in a conversation and your friends instantly change the topic or don’t have anything meaningful to say to you.
4. Your Friends Are Unreliable
Similarly to point #3 above, business is the last thing on your friends minds!
So what happens when you message all your friends on Facebook and ask them to LIKE your new business page? Probably 3 – 5 out of the 100 you messaged will actually follow through!
An even worse feeling is when you ask your friends to SHARE your post or product launch and they don’t do it. I mean, how hard is it to press a SHARE button?
Well, your friends don’t want to be seen as spammers. No one wants to be seen as the “sales” guy, and if supporting your business means hurting their precious Facebook reputation, you can bet that they will take their reputation every time!
5. SHARING Something on Facebook Counts as Work
I had a friend who was working on a crowdfunding campaign. He was so confident that his friends would back his campaign because in conversation and online they all approved of his project.
Well, the day finally came for campaign launch and, you guessed it, only one of his friends shared the crowdfunding campaign on his Facebook wall. And it wasn’t even someone he talked to very often!
What happened? He was up all night messaging people the night before. What went wrong?
This is actually one of the exceptions to the rule where I will say that, if you can get your friends to support your crowdfunding project in this way, then that would be a good thing!
It’s all about strategy and how you ask! As we have already established, your friends don’t really care about business, it’s not about you, it’s just business is boring to them. So asking them to share your wonderful crowdfunding campaign is seen by them as both “free work” and a “reputation busting chore.”
How do you fix this? Perhaps you need to ask yourself: “Is my project a fit for what my friend actually likes?” If the answer is Yes, then your friends have no excuse for not helping you at least SHARE the project!
If the answer is no, then ask yourself: “Is there anything in it for my friend to share this or do I expect my friends to share it simply because they are friends?”
What’s in it for them to share something unrelated to their interests?
You need to be mature about this and realize the tough reality that “friends” don’t owe you anything. They don’t have to pay for the bill for you when you left your wallet in the car, and they don’t have to spend time with you when you’re feeling down.
Friends owe you nothing. I know this sounds counter intuitive to what true friendship should actually mean, but these days people rarely differentiate between true friendship and acquaintances.
6. Friends Want Special Treatment
I used to run a popular YouTube channel, for the sake of this article I won’t reveal the channel, but let’s just say that a lot of my personal friends were literally begging to be a guest in the videos.
I didn’t see any problem with that at first, they wanted it, and it didn’t cost me anything, it’s a win win right? WRONG!
One of my friends realized that a joke he said in a video was pretty popular. Some commenters on YouTube asked for him to come back on the channel and BOOM it happened… The few comments on that video got to his head.
He started to believe that him being in one video was a great contribution to the artistic work. It wasn’t my 10 hours of video editing, or my camera work, or even the other people present who were involved in the production. The whole thing wouldn’t have happened without HIM!
And so, months after the video was posted, I received a call from him asking me where his payment was for the video. Of course, no payment terms were ever agreed to in the beginning. He wanted to be on the video and I thought I was doing him a favor by letting him have his moment of fame.
Now it came back to bite me in the ass, and you know what happened after that? I accepted to pay him. AND IT WASN’T ENOUGH! He found the amount I originally offered to be an “insult!”
The friendship ended there, and to this day, years later, we haven’t spoken (mostly because he blocked me on all social media).
Of course, the lesson learned here is that your friends always expect special treatment from you. And after that, whenever we did videos, if someone was appearing for free, there was a written contract (I used contracts for all strangers, but now I use it for friends as well!)
And this brings me to the next point…
7. Friends Hate Signing Contracts (They Get Offended!)
Any smart business person knows that contracts are good for protection and helps to prevent disputes or misunderstandings later on.
Some of your friends, whether they be photographers or artists, who might actually be interested in helping your business might want to help you. In my case, running a popular YouTube channel definitely got my friends interested!
But you absolutely have to use a contract for everyone, especially if they have offered to be in a video or model a product for you.
The second you show them a contract, they will mostly likely act offended. “I’m your friend, you know I won’t screw you over!”
It’s not about the contract that bothers them, but the fact that you apparently didn’t like them enough to give them some kind of special treatment!
This point is just to make you aware that your friends will react this way to you, you need to be prepared for it.
The best response to this type of reaction is to just remind them that you have to comply with the law or that some 3rd party requires it. My favorite excuse is to tell my friends that “the client demanded it, I’m sorry bro, nothing personal, it’s not up to me!”
8. Friends Want Discounts (All the Time, not Just Once!)
This also comes from the story about my friend who ran his first crowdfunding campaign.
At first it was humorous, conversation goes like this:
YOU: “Hey my crowdfunding campaign is going live in 2 days, can you SHARE this or contribute?”
FRIEND: “Give me a discount!”
How irritating would it be to hear this every time you asked your friends for anything? In some cases, it might be beneficial if your friends didn’t know that you were the owner of that business!
In a worse situation, I heard that people were demanding freebies from him in exchange for a simple Facebook SHARE or LIKE.
It wasn’t until the 5th or 6th “freebie request” that my friend really got fed up with it and started giving the same response to everyone: “Okay, only if it’s successful you’ll get a freebie!”
NO, NO, NO!
This is not the right answer at all! Not only have you given in to your friends demands, but there is absolutely nothing in it for you! Why would you say this?
What’s in it for you to give away free inventory to your friend who wasn’t even willing to SHARE it on their Facebook page for you, let alone contribute to your campaign?
Do you think that giving them a free product will change their attitude? Sure, they might SHARE it on their Facebook page AFTER you already hit your funding goal… What a great help they were right?
Are you just so desperate for that friendship to last that you offer free products to them for asking? How dare they ask you for completely free inventory!
A discount I can understand, but completely free? You gotta be kidding me!
That free inventory would be better in the hands of a professional influencer than given to your friends for free, just so you can have a good reputation with them? Not even close to worth it!
The right approach to this would be to be respectful but also firm and direct with your friend.
YOU: “Hey my crowdfunding campaign is going live in 2 days, can you SHARE this or contribute?”
FRIEND: “Only if you give me a free one!”
YOU: “I’d love to, but I can’t make any promises. I really need you to help me at least SHARE this campaign? Every SHARE counts and might help us hit our goal. If we don’t even hit our goal then there won’t be any free ones for anyone! Do you think you could do this at least?”
Direct, firm, and no promises. If they are asking for free products (not in a joking way) then they aren’t even worth asking money from. They’ve already made up their mind about your campaign and they decided it wasn’t worth their time or money.
The mistake my friend made above, of course, your friends will always remember that time you promised them a free product when you succeed. My friend has to answer to those few freebies he offered “only if the campaign was a success” and I believe it was successful!
Now he either has to part with that inventory for free to live up to his word, or tell his friend the hard way that plans changed and risk that friendship. All for a promise that was contingent upon something you friend had no control or contribution to, just so you can be respected by them? Not worth it!
9. Friendship is Not Free
Friends demand your time, your energy, sometimes a little money to pay for the Uber. At the end of they day, you are friends and you all give up a little something to maintain the friendship.
The friendship itself is mutual as long as everyone contributes to it.
However, the success of a business only benefits you right?
Assuming you are a honest person, your loyal friend who helps you all the time for free should be entitled to the first job when you have the money to afford your first paid employee right? I would say this is only fair. (Not that you should make promises like this!)
The point I am trying to make is that business people see the small favors they do each other as contributing to potential long term returns, whether it be in the form of a referral or freebie later on.
Businesses do this all the time for each other!
Your friends on the other hand are very short sighted. They will see one successful even or sales night as a huge win (even if you haven’t broken even yet!)
They will prefer instant payment and gratification over long term potential partnership or benefits. They fail to see the fact that if you are successful, you might actually have the power and willingness to pay them what they think their time is worth.
On the other hand, you may not be in a position to afford this, and your friends asking for payment in the short term can really hurt you. You certainly might not think favorably of that friend by the time you are ready to hire!
Ironically, it’s probably the friend who does the smallest amount of work, but the most of it, because they don’t see it as an unpaid chore, that might end up being your most loyal employee later down the road!
If you’re thinking about asking your friends to help you run your business, most likely it’s because you are very cheap or you just aren’t ready to hire full time, paid staff yet.
Most businesses will be in this phase at the beginning of their cycle. And we know that most businesses to end up failing. So it’s not surprising that people would be inclined to ask their friends from time to time for a little free help, or in exchange for some free dinner.
However, it goes without saying that bringing your friends into your business will always risk compromising your friendship.
Think wisely about who you want to ask for help. You may find that your best friends might be the least willing to help you in your business journey, not because they don’t like you, but because you are best friends for a reason… You enjoy each other too much!
Turning that pure enjoyment into work could be the worst mistake of your life!
When starting a business, be prepared to loose friendships and make new ones. It’s all part of the cycle and the risk we take as entrepreneurs.
Always understand that your non-business friends don’t think the same way that you do. They always expect something in return for their time, even if their time leads to nothing in the long run! Don’t be upset with them, just understand that they think differently from you and me and get over it.