Friends are more than just people you can hang out with and have a good time. They can be a useful business tool as well. With connections in different areas, they can introduce you to a whole new slew of great business contacts.
Having said that, mixing your business and personal life can be a risky venture. But, it can be done successfully so you can maintain your friendship and not feel uncomfortable.
Here are some tips for how to make the most out of networking with your friends.
If you plan a get-together with your friend, make sure it’s clear from the get-go that you want to pick their brain about their business connections. If they go there thinking it’s just a hanging out session and all you want to do is discuss business, then it’s going to be very frustrating for your friend.
A friend wants to help you, but you need to give them a heads-up of what you’re looking for. They’ll be more prepared to answer your potential inquiries during a meeting if they know the purpose of it.
Don’t Take Advantage
You never want your friends to feel like the only reason you’re friends with them is because they can further you in business. You can’t have every get-together be only about business. You have to continue to be their friend.
Hang out, go bowling, and remember to make sure to not always discuss business or contacts they can connect you with. You have to continue to do what you always did before you decided to go to them for help in business.
Give them the chance to direct the conversation and really listen to them and be there for them. If all you talk about is business, then your friendship is no longer a friendship and it’s just another business relationship. You need to keep your friends as friends.
Don’t Make Your Friend Do All of the Work
If you’re asking your friend to set up a meet and greet with one of his (or her) business contacts, then don’t make him do the whole thing. You should write up a little bio about yourself which can simply be copied and pasted into the email introduction. You can even give your friend a list of questions you’d like to discuss prior to your meeting.
Your friend likely isn’t getting anything out of introducing you to people other than the satisfaction of helping a friend. Make it worth their time by not occupying too much of their time building your business. They’ll appreciate you for it.
Don’t Compromise Their Integrity
Don’t ever ask your friend to do something that might compromise their integrity. Your friend is your friend and while they might be willing to do just about anything for you, don’t ask them to lie for you or do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable just out of some sort of duty to friendship for you.
Give them an out and a way to say no if they should feel they have to. Letting them know that you will be totally fine if it’s something they can’t do will keep your friendship strong. Make sure you mean it too, though. You have to be prepared for the possibility of them not being able to do something for you.
Friends are great resources, but it’s very easy to take advantage of them as well. Making the friendship your top priority when you are asking for help with networking is going to be of the utmost importance of keeping your friend a friend.