Friends are more than just people you can hang out with and have a good time. They can be an invaluable business networking ally as well. With connections in different areas, they can introduce you to a whole new array of great business contacts.
You know how it goes…
“I have a friend who has a friend who is an amazing virtual assistant.”
“Oh, my friend is a social media VA, I bet she can help you with that.”
“I have this friend who helps busy entrepreneurs with organizing & executing their task lists.”
Having said that, mixing your business and personal life can be a risky venture. But, it can be done successfully so that you can maintain your friendship and not make your friend uncomfortable.
Here are some tips on how to make the most out of networking with your friends while maintaining the integrity of your friendship.
1. Be Forthcoming
When planning a get-together, make sure it’s clear from the get-go that you want to pick their brain about their business connections. Don’t let them show up for a “hang out session” and all you want to do is discuss business. That is going to be very frustrating for your friend.
Your friends want to help you, but you need to give them a heads-up of what you’re looking for. They will be more prepared to answer your questions during a get together if they know the purpose of it.
2. Don’t Take Advantage
Your friends should never feel like the only reason you are friends is the possibility that they can help you further your business. You can’t have every get-together be only about business. Focus on maintaining the friendship first & foremost.
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.
3. It’s give and take
If you’re asking your friend to set up a meet and greet with one of her (or her) business contacts, then don’t make them do the work. You should write up a little bio about yourself which they can simply copy over 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. If you can, buy them dinner or small gift as a token of your appreciation.
You will also enjoy: 5 Ways To Network Locally As A Virtual Assistant
4. 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. Be prepared for the possibility of them not wanting to use their contacts for your benefit.
Friends are great resources, but it’s very easy to take advantage of them. 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.