We’ve come a long way since 2010, when I used to see conversations from small business owners on Twitter and wish I could provide something more.
And then there was the creation of the Notonthehighstreet partner forum (yes, I got that up and running when I worked in the Notonthehighstreet partner team) – a place for that particular community to share tips, advice, and woes. Even that appears to have dwindled now, less a community and more of a tumbleweed.
There are so many more communities and business friendships available. We meet kindred spirits on Instagram, or in a Facebook group. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to be close to a strong local community. (How I long to be in Exeter and go to a Creative Business Network coffee meet up!)
My own business friendships have developed. I have clients who’ve become friends, and my own coaches have, too. My bestie, Kelly, started her own business, and so business became another way in which we support each other.
But I have to say that in this arena of business friendships – and relationships in general – I feel a little bruised. I was thinking about writing this post, and I realised that I still carry friendship-sadness for connections that have faded, and I wondered just how many of us feel that way.
It’s true of the old school friends who I haven’t kept in touch with, or the kindred spirit who went travelling and with whom I lost touch.
These are people I didn’t fall out with – nothing bad happened – but that slipped through my hands.
And those feelings are affecting my business friendships even now.
I’m still afraid to make new friendships in business, in case they fade away or don’t work out, and I’ve found myself questioning whether some relationships are meant to be business friendships, or a different dynamic.
Did I employ that person because I wanted to be friends with them?
Did I become friends with someone because I wanted to do business with them?
What about the friendships that could have been, but our business values were different?
When you have a business friendship, I think you know it. At least, when I reflect on what works for me, I know it. There are some friends with whom I can talk about business and feel respected, seen, heard, and supported. And I can listen to friends in business, and make sure they want my coaching perspective before I offer it.
Because there’s a difference between being someone’s business coach and being their friend.
There’s also a difference between being a friend in business, and a business friendship.
What do we mean by a business friendship?
A business friendship is a relationship in which you’re able to share honestly about your business successes and challenges without judgement and in order to receive encouragement and support. You might meet up for co-working coffee dates, or brainstorm your marketing plan together. Perhaps you meet at or attend events together. (Like a business retreat, for example.)
You’re able to bounce ideas around, go on inspiration-gathering trips together, or send a panic text when something’s going wrong. In a business friendship, you know that the other person has your back, but isn’t responsible for your business success.
It might be a one-on-one friendship, or it might be a small community. You might have a Facebook group or an Instagram chat.
Things that aren’t a business friendship:
- A friend who has a business but doesn’t support yours (Beware the Naysayers)
- A business coach or mentor who offers guidance, advice, or services (though a friendship might blossom outside of your coaching or mentoring relationship)
- Anyone who offers you unsolicited advice, or is constantly negative about your business or decisions – even if they say they’re “playing devil’s advocate” or offering “tough love”
- One-sided support, where you give all the support all the time. This is different from the cyclical nature of mutual support, where one person needs a little more for a time.
If you have even one person you’d call a business friend, count yourself incredibly lucky! Any more, and you’re walking on sunshine, my friend.
Of course, sometimes we need more than friendship – we need a coach or mentor to provide business expertise. A business coach will work with you to create a business plan and will help you to identify what you really want – and how to get it. It’s in-depth work. Yes, you’ll be seen and heard (with the right coach), and you’ll get a whole load of love. But you’ll also have someone who is trained, experienced, and works in this way professionally. It’s a total business – and life – support.
Chances are, if you decide to work with a coach, your business friend will benefit from the work you’re doing too, as you share stories and create a different path for your business. It’s a win-win-win.
Here are some things I’d love to know, so please get in touch!
- Do you have a business bestie? If not, are you looking for one?
- If you’re in or near Cambridge, would you be interested in a regular creative business meet up?
- What do you think the difference between business friendship and business coaching is?