Building and maintaining a business is a bit like starting a new relationship and often takes as much time and energy, if not more, than you give to your existing relationships. In the process of giving your all, your friendships might take a hit. But do they have to? Experts suggest that it is a fine balance to strive for success and keep your friends, but it is possible with a few strategic approaches.
Amanda Koziel, a Texas-based leadership and success coach and founder of The VIP Woman, a platform that inspires women in the workplace and in leadership roles, says it’s important to recognize that your friends may not fully understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur, but to try to remember that they care about your best interests.
She explains how she first felt defensive when her friends gave opinions about her choices as an entrepreneur. “Then over time I realized that were just giving advice because they love me.”
Friendships may change when you begin a business. In that case, “You just have to find the common things that still hold your friendship together,” Koziel says. So you might still get together for social interactions but you wouldn’t necessarily ask old friends for business advice.
Though we want to believe our friends will support our endeavors no matter what, organizational psychologist Kahlil King, a professor of Economics and Psychology at several colleges including Hofstra University and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, suggests that friends who aren’t entrepreneurs may not understand why your business requires so much of your time. In that case, “You may grow apart naturally,” King says. “Don’t think of it as losing a friend but as a change in the dynamic or nature of the friendship you have with them.”
If you do hang on to each other, King says it’s important to engage in clear communication with your friends. She encourages telling them your new schedule, the demands of your workload, and letting them in on these changes in advance. “Explain that your schedule is [like] a 9 to 5 job, but these are the hours I’ve carved out,” she says. “They are more likely to understand that you work a shift that just isn’t similar to theirs, like nurses who work overnight.”
On the other hand, while a business can be all encompassing, friendship does require both parties to participate, or at least to be understanding of each other’s lives. Cheryl Castro, founder of The Up Agency, a Pennsylvania-based marketing firm with a mission to make the world a better place, says, “Whatever [your friend] is doing or working on in their life, is just as important and meaningful to them. Just be aware of what’s important to them.”
“Go to their weddings, baby showers, the big things. Don’t skip those things,” King says.
In fact, King reminds entrepreneurs that socializing can be an important valve to prevent burnout. “Scheduling time with your friends can combat the depersonalization that happens when you’re overworking, where you get disconnected form the people [in your life].”
Some entrepreneurs will find it necessary to find and maintain the friendships with people who really understand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, Koziel says. That may mean making new connections. “When you start your own company, you are the sum of the people you’re surrounding yourself with,” she says. “So you may have to go out and meet new people.”
Whether you befriend colleagues or join networking groups, seek out mentors or coaches, Koziel found that expanding her friend network made her more successful and allowed her to maintain a social life, too.
“I needed to be surrounded by people that understood success can be what you make of it, not just waiting until next year to get a promotion. Life is now. It’s about putting yourself out there to make your business successful,” Koziel says.
At the same time, King recommends entrepreneurs continue to draw healthy boundaries between work and socializing, or just downtime. “Don’t feel guilty when you’re not working on your business, or when you’re taking time to make sure you are okay,” she says.