Mixing Friends and Business

In business, usa by Michael Michelini9 Comments

Dating girls in my high school – that was a mistake! It was a small catholic high school (Mary Immaculate Academy) and everyone knew everything about everyone. My first “girlfriend” was in my sophomore year in high school, I was a bit of a shy guy then, and she had a big crush on me. Asking all her friends what to do, i quickly found out she was interested in me. So I took the plunge and asked her out. That was pretty annoying, the gossip, the stories, etc. Didn’t last long, and then more gossip, more pressure, more tension about the DRAMA. I decided I would date OUTSIDE OF MY SMALL HIGH SCHOOL so that the stories and gossip didnt go around the lunch table and I could control my personal life and my school life.

IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE ANYMORE? I mean, I have written in previous post about separation of personal and business . Seems like this social media is good and evil at the same time……

Here are some examples of problems that may arise, and some other stories of what I have run into.

  • Dating in the workplace – Similar to my high school girlfriend story about (blush still!), this is commonly said to be “don’t shit where you eat” – which crudely means, unless you are 99% sure you will marry this boy/girl, you had better not try it. Its not always fun thinking “with the end in mind”, but WHAT IF THIS SEXY GIRL or GUY puts you in a weird situation where you have to either go against them in the workplace. Or fight for a raise? Worse yet, what if you get in fights over the weekend, at night, and then you have to see them every day at the workplace. And then the breakup…yea, well not really a breakup because you have to see him/her every day, right?!?!
  • Hiring Friends – I always have friends approaching me for work, or projects, etc. I guess I am a sucker, or maybe I get a power trip maybe a mix of both…..), but I would love to hire everyone – not just friends, but people who are excited and ambitious. Then, I have done it and hired friends. And we promise that we won’t let work get in the way,and if work becomes a problem we’ll stay friends. Yea, that is tough. And budget cuts, or job shifts, or raises, how do you handle it? And then, a night out on the weekend, how can you avoid discussing the job. Gossip, etc. I mean, its human nature.
  • Customers that are friends – When I started a ecommerce website www.pimpguide.com, it was my first ecommerce site. This was October 2004. I thought, hey, if all my friends buy 1 thing, I’ll be rich! I can actually remember about 2 people who ever bought from me on that site. And that was after months of promotion, pushing, etc. But thats kind of easy, selling a couple products and the transaction is done. More difficult friend to customer sales are websites and service. You then wonder, ok, is this beer work, or are we out on the town? Who pays for dinner? How much should I bill.
  • Business Partners that are friends – This is one that is always a red flag when talking to seasoned entrepreneurs. Similar to friends becoming roommates and then fighting about one not stocking the fridge as much as the other, or who cleaned the bathroom last. It means you have to share the decision making, the financial ups (and downs!), and other stress that comes along with a startup. Again, I think it comes down to writing it down, making a clear plan. Also, its almost better if there are “opposites” to fill the gaps in the organization versus the sales, financial, technology, etc. But I keep getting into situations where I mix friends and business, and it strains the friendship as financial strains so often get involved.

So when you make these deals with friends, its going to be tough. Especially in a small startup environment. How do you control the future – YOU CANNOT. It will test friendships, just as small startup test every single cell in your body. You have to be on your toes, watch your back, be flexible an adapt quickly and smart.

But yea, I guess it means sometimes you’ll have to “screw” your friends if you get in the above arrangements. Or the will “screw you”. But then you or they will say, “hey, this is business”. And you have to realize that.

Maybe not just that its business. But that its a GAME. Business is like a game. And in a board game, like risk, there will be winners, and losers. But after the game is over, hopefully people will shake and laugh about how it went down in the game. And learn about each other in the process.

But tying this to social media I AM GLAD facebook and this stuff didnt exist when I was in high school. It was tough enough with just phone calls and beepers. There is so much overconnection. I hope that students can focus on their studies and their careers. But everyone sees everything a bout us, and while that is great for promotion, its not so great for privacy and peace and quiet!

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  3. Is there some way to handle such phenomena? coordinate or control

  4. that is no way.whatever friends or business partners or employees or customers etc… everyone should clear know the game rule and business is business,private is private。that maybe easy to handle。 But dateing at workplace,oh i do not think it is good。i always think that give an impact to our work and life.it is easy to bring personal emotion to work and life,especially when we are in trouble or work is not going smoothly that it hurt our feeling and job. i think that’s why so many boss disallow the employees dateing in the office in China,one of them should leave whatever who you are and what position… that’s fair. The second company that i worked do like this. “You then wonder, ok, is this beer work, or are we out on the town? Who pays for dinner? How much should I bill.” this is not question, if for business,of course you pay,if for private,you pay for them this time,they will pay for you back next time…

  5. Author

    @kent – seems like Echo kind of answers your questions, some companies forbid it.

    @echo – thanks again for your thoughtful response…..so if a company were to find out people were dating, they would be fired from company, or what?

    as for business and friends, this is still not clear…I mean – customers become friends and friends become customers. So during “customer relations”, to keep the business relationship good, is that considered friends or business.

    Anyway, thats is what budgets are for…

  6. @Mike, not get fired but sort of.it is one of them take the initiative to resign. which one they decide by themself.

  7. Found this article very interesting…
    I, like yourself, went to a Catholic HS (all girls) and I too was very shy. Would I do it again – probably not – didn’t do alot for my social life. Here are my comments:

    a) Dating in the workplace – Met my 2nd husband at work. Did not work in the same dept so it was OK. Tried to keep it hush-hush but, that kind of gossip just spread like wildfire.
    b)Hiring Friends. Actually, I was the hired friend. There was some loyalty there but, then my friend conducted/presented herself in compromising ways (she had an affair with a co-worker while married with 4 kids). Did not feel too comfortable and questioned her leadership skills – so I became an ex-friend.
    c) Customers that are friends. I guess if both parties know where the line is, both sides of the relationship can flourish. It’s when one or both parties start assuming that they can step over the boundary that’s where the problems start.
    d) Business partners that are friends. You need to have trust in each other in order to become business partners. Like a marriage – it’s a joint venture where there should be respect for each other. There is a common goal that is understood between bother parties. When mistrust is present, usually means to end the partnership.

    Where you really shy back then – you would never know that now!

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