Leveraging Friendships In Business: 5 Tips For The Good-Intentioned

Warren Buffet once implied in a quote that, as a company, when you don’t consider hiring women, you’re limiting yourself to half the talent. Now, think of this in terms of business network contacts. Are you inadvertently closing off the opportunity to do business with and help 50% of those in your world? What if I told you that you might be hamstringing yourself by not considering these great prospective contacts?

In the case of networking, the comfort zones of men and women are QUITE different. Most men possess the ability to ask for favors from people they’ve just met. By contrast, women feel we need to have a relationship with someone first. Even then, we still have a tough time asking for an introduction or doing business together.

But in many cases, ideal connection sources live right under our noses, or more accurately, right in our own social circles. We and our spouses probably ‘hang out’ with dozens of potential clients each week, and often don’t take advantage of the opportunities. Do you feel uncomfortable exploring a business relationship with the wife of your husband’s college buddy? Don’t! Here are 5 reasons and ways to go ahead and embrace such opportunities, just as you would with anyone at a networking event.

Feel The Vibe

Think about it: We want to do business with people we like and who seem reliable. Who fits more neatly into that role than someone whom you first met socially, liked, and were able to get a good read on? When the friendly dinner discussion inevitably turns to career and the business cards are exchanged, take it as seriously as you would with someone whom you met in a business setting. Brainstorm about some possible points of collaboration, and then follow up. You might be delighted with the results!

The Trust Factor

Trust is a BIG first step in a business relationship, and knowing someone socially for 10 years puts your potential business relationship at a tremendous advantage.  It allows you to adequately assess this social friend’s character (and they, yours). Granted, there are some folks in everyone’s social circle that they wouldn’t choose to do business with. But as for the real trustworthy gems, don’t hesitate to supplement your friendship with opportunity.

Be Mindful of Boundaries

If you don’t typically talk shop while socializing with your circle of friends, you may want to think twice before attempting to change this paradigm. Instead of interrupting the social status quo, reach out directly by phone or email to individuals with whom you see professional synergies and suggest a coffee or lunch date to get things rolling. This will maintain a social balance in the group, while granting you the liberty to expand some boundaries on the side.

Think BIG

Take it from personal experience: The fun of managing your network is getting to know and understand the people you enjoy most. As I often declare, “I surround myself with people I aspire to be like.” Since this scenario is already in play with someone whom you have chosen to be friends with, it can make a potential business relationship with them run that much more smoothly. As a bonus, you get to learn about another side of this social friend, and perhaps enrich your personal relationship.

Warming Up To It

Often we think that we don’t deserve such a shortcut in business as to conduct it with a friend. There can be a general discomfort with giving or taking the upper hand, or worse, a fear of inadvertently taking advantage of the other person. My advice? Relax. You may be conspiring with yourself unnecessarily. To be sure your fears are not lived out, a paradigm shift might be in order. Try switching your thoughts from “I don’t want to take advantage of this friendship” to “I’m setting myself up to help her, and who better to help than a friend?” Because after all, your intentions ARE good. Why not set them into motion?