Friends and family can be the best allies in business, but they can also be the biggest burden to the growth of a business.
HOW INVOLVED, HOW FAR:
Choose how much and when to involve them. This goes for decision making, taking unexplored paths, and the like. Know which of them is worth brainstorming with. Lead them not into temptation, so do not feed them with business secrets that you are fully aware they do not have the capacity to withhold from those who shouldn't have access to them.
Know when it's time to respectfully move on without them.
Now, if they made monetary/other working capital contributions towards the business, make sure that there were/are well-spelled out written terms, because at that point they do have a stake in the business and they are entitled to an opinion and to sharing ideas. However a minority owner should not have as much power to influence the decisions made in the business, especially if they consistently do so for nothing else but sheer power trips. It's up to you (unless the terms/agreement says otherwise) to decide to buy them out and say 'adios' for the sake of the 'sanity' of the business/company. Just let them know, "It's only business" as you bid them farewell; that way your personal relationship is not totally ruined.
Be reasonable in your expectations from them. This is your baby- not theirs. Therefore it it very unfair to expect them to carry an equal burden in the venture. Do not make them feel awful because they weren't able to pitch in at some point. Do not expect them to sacrifice their personal lives for your ventures' sake. Let it be voluntary. They owe you nothing. Yeah, you may have helped them sometime back to achieve their goals, but unless you had a written agreement that should you ever need them in a similar way in the future they should reciprocate, allow them to reciprocate out of the goodness of their heart.
Family or friend gatherings are not for you to talk about your business, so allow them to enjoy the friend and relative you are to them when you're around them in a non-business setting.
REMIND THEM IT'S A BUSINESS!
It's very easy to forget the primary issue at stake. This is a business, number 1, and friendship or family relationship are number 2!!! As long as it's on business time and turf, everyone should leave their personal drama at 'the entrance', and they can pick it up on the way out. Do not allow a family member or a personal friend you do business with to manipulate you with the personal connection. At the end of the day there are obligations to be met, bills and taxes have to be paid, and profits to be made. If there are employees involved, they've got to be paid. A friend or family member who does not show up when they need to is not worth dragging on for the sake of the personal relationship.
Friends and family could be your best allies in business even if they never literally invested in your business or even made a monetary or human resource contribution.
Their moral support is invaluable.
Their diverse networks could be the initial market for your products/services.
They could be your best 'word-of-mouth' business ambassadors
They could be your bail-out when you hit an unexpected bump.
They could be a source of otherwise expensive resources especially for startups. Such resources might include free consultations, redundant capital equipment, influential connections, say in pursuit of licences and permits.
Ultimately, know your friend-and-family'jigsaw puzzle' very well. Know who/what fits where. The truth is there's a reason why they are in your life. The task is to determine when, for what, and for how long.
Have a beautiful day!
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