When it comes to family and friends, working with them, for them, or employing them can make for a complete and utter disaster. Families can be torn in half; lifelong friendships can dissolve overnight and generally, one or both parties are unhappy and disappointed.
This comes around for what I believe are two main reasons:
Firstly, one party has an expectation of something different from what should or will occur. For example, a friend says “Hey Donna, you’re a great business coach – can you help me with an urgent problem I have?” It’s urgent … I help and then if I issue an invoice, they may have thought this was a love job and why am I invoicing them?
Secondly (for some crazy reason), when we deal with friends (or family, or it’s urgent) that is the time that our rules and systems get forgotten and left behind. Our contracts don’t get done, our checklists are left behind and we take shortcuts. Over the years, when something has gone wrong with one of my team (in my prior business) I investigated why and discover the checklist wasn’t done – and usually because “it was urgent and we were in a rush”. That is probably the time our checklists are most important – and most valuable.
So, how do we avoid problems when dealing with and working with friends? Here are my thoughts:
- Don’t. This is obvious but it may be that you simply have a policy. So when a close friend asks for your help … then you can state your policy and refer them to someone else you know is very good. Lawyers don’t do their own work for a reason and doctors don’t operate on close family members for a reason … sometimes it’s just the smarter thing to do – especially in some fields.
- Communicate clearly up front. This is probably the smartest and wisest thing you can do. Your friend asks for help, then right from the beginning ask “Are you wanting to engage me?” This wording says money and if they say yes, then advise you’ll do them a quote. If the response is “ohhhh…. Ummm …. “ then probably they don’t want to engage you for a fee.
- Provide a quote. Just like any customer you normally give a quote for, you do so now especially. Also have an additional conversation with them, about the length of the arrangement, the exit strategy etc. I coached a good friend of mine. We had these conversations up front. In fact, I specifically said we would work together only for 3 months and then finish. Later (so no pressure) IF she needs further assistance, she can re-engage me. We also talked about some rules, such as respecting each other’s time. For example, when we are out socially, we will not talk business or jump into coaching mode.
- Provide your best. Whether you are being paid, discounting or full fee, provide your best service. That is one way to avoid issues. If you’ve been clear up front about rules, terms, conditions and what you will be doing … then do your job, do it well and the friendship will flourish.
- Friends expect freebies. This is common, especially in the trades, but even outside the trades. Whether you’re a tradie, or a professional, your business is your livelihood. You doing a heap of freebies for your mates means you’re not working and whilst they may be good mates, you have to earn a living. May I suggest you explain you have a mates’ discount, and spell that out. It might be 10% for example. Be clear about that up front. Can you see a pattern forming here – communication up front is key.
- If you give discounts remind people. One thing that anyone receiving a deal or discount forget is the value of that. So I always recommend you show your full price on your invoice, and then have a discount line, as the minus, which represents the saving the person has received. When we see that in black and white it’s a great reminder of what we got, and how much it’s worth. Do this always, not just with friends and family.
- Limit freebies. If you are giving away a freebie, perhaps it’s a consultation, get formal about it. Never do something like that Sunday afternoon with a few wines. For a start, that ½ hour consult will end up being 3+ hours, plus you may not give accurate advice. Stick to business hours, set a time and remind the person up front it’s a ½ hour timeslot.
- Use your staff. If you have staff, use them. I frequently get people trying to pick my brain, so I give a brief bit of advice, and then I would recommend they book an appointment with my team member. I’d instruct the team member, that person is a friend, but it’s not a freebie, so to ensure prices are quoted up front. This helps to ‘remove’ you a little from the situation.
- If you don’t want to use a friend’s service. This can also happen, from the opposite perspective. You don’t want to engage a friend’s services because perhaps you want to ensure the job gets done promptly and not spoil a friendship, or you know you have exceedingly high standards. A friend may insist on ‘no fee’ but then if you are not paying, how can you expect timely delivery? It’s hard to do that (especially from a friend) so if you need something urgently then perhaps discuss with your friend up front you want to do XYZ, and you need it done urgently and you’ll be riding the service provider, and value the friendship so much – so would they be ok if you don’t use them?
- Think about the possible negative. If you are going to employ family or friends – do not – unless that person is perfect for the job and you’d hire them in a heartbeat even if they were not family or friends. Again, have Employment Agreements (just like all your staff) and be clear with them up front that they are a staff member when at work. Imagine if you had to sack your mum? How would that go down? It’s a little easier with children (I’ve employed mine over the years) as you can set the rules and if you are clear, fair and succinct, then if they don’t follow the rules, they have a choice to leave or comply. That can be their choice to a degree, but remember, if you have other staff, then they may become disgruntled. Staff don’t like seeing another team member get a good paycheque, not cover their own workload and therefore make more work for everyone else They will tolerate a little, but if it becomes too much, they may simply quit.
- Do it all in writing. This tip is relevant whether it’s a friend, family member or complete stranger. Have engagement agreements, client agreements and any ‘deals’ or ‘arrangements’ get documented in writing (even if it’s an email) so that no one (you included) can say “oh, but that’s not what we agreed on”. If you have a verbal discussion, then follow up with an email confirmation.
When it comes to working with family and friends, exceptional communication UP FRONT (and ideally in writing) is critical.
So, to my friends and prospective clients, here are my business coaching services. Call me on 0411 622 666 for an appointment 🙂