Friends & Partners
by Douglas E. Welch
May 5, 2000
© 2000, Douglas E. Welch
It seems that no matter where I go, I am always treated to career
stories. These stories come from all sorts of people and all sorts of
relationships. At a recent wedding a friend was so upset by a
career move we spent nearly the entire reception discussing it.
While she works in the entertainment industry, her story applies
just as well to your high tech careers, in fact, almost any career.
I thought you were my friend?
My friend had decided to leave her agent, a common process in
Hollywood. Over the last few years this agent had made a few business
mistakes and she was not happy with his work. She informed her
agent of her decision and then the trouble started. He quickly
leapt into a tirade and took her decision very, very personally.
It was as if a marriage was breaking up, not a business relationship.
He berated her and made every effort to make her feel guilty.
The whole incident left her feeling very upset for many days after.
She found herself doubting her own judgement, even though she
had carefully weighed the situation.
How it should/should not be
A personal attack, like the one my friend experienced, can often
be taken as the first sign that you have made the right decision.
A professional businessperson should never confuse business with
friendship. Sure, they might try to convince you to stay, but
it should be done in a calm and reasonable fashion, not through
screaming fits and personal attacks. If someone reacts in this
way you can be assured that you are better off without him or
her. Such an event would have occurred sometime in the future
if you had not precipitated it now.
Do not let anyone use guilt to change your mind. If you have fulfilled
your business promises then you have no reason to feel guilty.
If the person tries to woe you back you in more subtle ways you
must remember to evaluate any promises made. Too often, these
promises fail to pan out and you waste even more time and energy
in a relationship you have already decided is not in your best
In your own best interest
Too often people, whether agents who work for you, or the people
for whom you work, claim to be working in your best interest.
The truth, though, is much murkier. Sure, when times are good
we can all be altruistic and help one another to succeed, but
when it comes to the hard decisions, hiring, firing or money,
we can only make the best decision for ourselves. I am sure my
friend's agent thought she was foolish for leaving. Perhaps he
thought her ungrateful as well. More to the point, though, he
was calculating the lost income that would come from losing this
client. He wasn't thinking about my friend's need to find someone
that would do a better job for her.
Major decisions can cause us all to lose perspective. We have
to insure that we are being truthful with ourselves, as well.
I would be less sympathetic to my friend's decision had she made
it in the heat of anger. Instead, she put much thought into the
decision and based it on logical thought not the emotions of the
moment. We would all be well advised to do the same. If you act
out of emotion then they are liable to act out of emotion as well.
As many of you know, friends or relatives are forming more and
more Internet start-ups. Unfortunately, this can often lead to
much distress when business issues diverge from the friendship
itself. It is always better to clearly lay out how the business
will continue to function if one or more of the friends leave.
You should establish ways of settling disagreements at the very
founding of the company. Don't ignore the possibility that the
relationship may not work out. Don't wait until there is a problem.
Whenever you enter into a business relationship with a friend
or relative you must be aware that troubles in the business can
easily spill over into the personal relationship. It may sound
grim, but you need to understand that the beginning of a business
could lead to the end of a friendship.
We must all do our best to divorce our personal relationships
from our business relationships. Even in the best of times, though,
there will be issues. Don't let someone ,acting out of emotion,
confuse you or guilt you into doubting your own judgement. Good
businesspeople will never do that to one another.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/
He can reached via email at email@example.com