Wed | Jun 16, 2021
ADVISORY COLUMN: SMALL BUSINESS

Yaneek Page | Getting family and friends to respect your hustle

Published:Sunday | June 6, 2021 | 12:08 AM

QUESTION: Can you please write about how to make family and so-called friends support your business in a real way? The problem I have is that everyone wants big discounts or even wants me to work for free. Right now, this is causing friction...

QUESTION: Can you please write about how to make family and so-called friends support your business in a real way? The problem I have is that everyone wants big discounts or even wants me to work for free. Right now, this is causing friction because I have family and friends that owe me funds going on months now, and I’m talking jobs that I already gave discounts for. I have my bills to pay, and times are rough. If me follow them, the thing will never maths-out, and me will lose. I don’t want to disrespect them, but it is out of hand now, especially these days.

– Andrew

BUSINESSWISE: There’s a mantra I post repeatedly across all my social media platforms to remind my audience of the very principle you have highlighted in your question. I am sharing it below with the hope that you and my readers will promote this message within your own spaces, especially online spaces like WhatsApp and your personal Instagram, where your family and friends hang out, to bring attention to the importance of valuing and paying for services rendered.

Pay your lawyer and doctor friends

Pay your plumber, electrician, and contractor friends

Pay your graphic and make-up artist friends

Support family and friends who run small businesses by respecting how they earn

Pay them on time, in full, and stop pressuring them for discounts or a special price.

Unfortunately, you did not share the details of the type of business you operate or how much is owed to you and for what period, so I can’t offer specific solutions regarding those predicaments.

The reality is that we are in challenging times, and your friends and relatives may be under financial strain and looking for any opportunity to save money, including tapping into their network of colleagues and relatives for free or discounted services.

Nevertheless, one of the simplest and best ways to get family and friends to respect your business, generally, is to maintain formality and professionalism throughout each business transaction, from the moment a business inquiry is received until after-service. Treat them like VIP customers, and ensure that they know upfront that they are being engaged as paying customers.

I’ve seen cases where business owners are very loose when engaging with family and close friends, delivering sub-quality service with haphazard timelines and no professionalism, which, in turn, causes their connections to feel undervalued and entitled to a discount or free services. Give them first-class service and create an exceptional customer experience, and it may well be a game changer.

It is easier to do this when your customer journey is properly defined and your processes are fully documented, so if you don’t have that completed, now would be a good time to undertake that body of work.

The great news is that this documentation is valuable as you scale the business and improve efficiency, productivity, quality control, and customer experience and satisfaction, among others. You should not have to explain to your relative or friends that you are running a business or that you have expenses or that you simply can’t afford to work for free, however, depending on the relationship and your personal preference, you may choose what works best for you.

Here’s a practical example of how this would work if you were a graphic artist and a relative reached out to you via WhatsApp to ask whether you could create a logo. You would reply with:

Hello Jane,

Thanks so much for this question and for thinking of my business, XYZ Graphics, to deliver this service to you. Yes, we can definitely create a logo for you. Our standard turnaround period is three days. To get started, we require a 50% deposit of $...... and the submission of our completed created brief form, which is attached below. If you have any questions, please let me know and I’d be happy to schedule a call at your earliest convenience for us to discuss.

Thanks again, Jane! I’m looking forward to serving you.

If your relative or friend agrees, then you proceed as you would with any other customer. Send that invoice, get paid, and deliver that ‘wow’ service and after-service follow-up.

However, let’s say you are not interested in Jane as a customer or she is unable to pay, then you can simply refer her to another colleague or resource. Remember, it is likely that her needs or financial situation or even maturity may change over time, and she may turn out to be a good customer in the future. You never know what will change and when, so it’s always advisable to treat inquiries as customer leads or prospects.

In my experience, good friends and supportive family may play an important role in the development of your business, so the goal should always be to strike a balance that is mutually beneficial when it comes to doing business with them.

Good luck and one love!

- Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of The Innovators and Let’s Make Peace TV series. Email yaneek.page@gmail.com