Friday, October 16, 2015

Business friends

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     Business owners frequently don't know the difference between personal friends and business friends. Until you get the hang of it, it can be confusing. 

     A personal friend is someone you're comfortable with. You willingly share private pieces of your life. You enjoy being around personal friends.

     A business friend is a customer or client. These people trust you to provide goods and services. They feel you have integrity. The relationship is at arm's length and professional.

     Example: Irene operates a small gift shop. She is downright unpleasant with some customers who wander into her place. Instead of assuming a professional attitude, she immediately "likes" or dislikes" shoppers. She treats them accordingly, bringing her own attitudes and preferences into play. Because of unprofessional treatment, many potential shoppers leave and never return. Irene's business suffers because of her attitude. People who arrive in her shop don't come looking for a personal friend. Perhaps they were attracted by something they saw in the window, or maybe they were referred to the shop by a friend. They expect, and they deserve, respect from Irene. 

     Every business owner will encounter difficult and demanding customers. Sometimes these types of customers are people you'd rather not deal with. But you should be careful not to let personal preferences drive people away.

     Example: Bob does home improvements. He has a lifetime of experience in carpentry, painting, and those small jobs around the house--hanging a door, repairing tile work, seeing to a squeaky stair. His estimates are free, but sometimes when he arrives at the homeowner's place, he turns and leaves without even knocking. He explains that he has seen so many homes and dealt with so many people, he could quickly make a decision whether or not he wanted to deal with the person. 

     This is not professional. That old car in the driveway might mean that the owner is thrifty. Maybe the person just bought the house and it needs lots of work. Maybe, well, anything.

     You can run your business any way you like. But setting up to serve only people you would consider having as personal friends will severely limit your business future. Growth is best achieved by serving business friends in a professional, arm's length manner. 

     Your customers and clients are your business friends. They appreciate professionalism, and they will refer others to you. Personal friends are quite a different bunch of people. 

     When you let your personal "likes" and "dislikes" invade your business space, you run the risk of turning away the very customers and clients who can help you grow. 


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