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How to Say “No” to a Friend Who Wants to Join Your Business

Saying No to a friend who wants to join our business

As an entrepreneur, having good friends is important. A strong social circle can provide support as well as offers a means to escape work and just enjoy the company of people you care about. This is really important for entrepreneurs and business owners because a business can be so all-consuming that the owner’s relationships can sometimes suffer.

But what if someone in your social circle decides that they want to be a part of your business? Whether you just have a great idea or you already have a business that is gaining traction, your business can sometimes invite unwanted attention from friends.

Even if you and a friend have a great dynamic, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should work together. In this article, you’ll learn how to say “no” to friends who want to join your company – without risking your friendship or your reputation as an entrepreneur.

Why You Should Say “No”

Although having the right co-founder for your business is great, going into business with friends is always risky. Just because someone is a good friend doesn’t mean they’ll be a good business partner. Unfortunately, many people enter partnerships to have fun and bond, forgetting that running a business is work.

If you were a manager at a retail store, you wouldn’t just hire your friends because you know them – that’s nepotism. Instead, you’d seek capable candidates with related experience who you can trust to get the job done correctly. When running your own company, you should do the same. Here are some reasons why letting your friend join your business is not always a great idea.

Lifestyle Differences

Each of us has our own unique set of responsibilities in our personal lives. Your friend may be a great companion, but chances are they have their own life to attend to. This means they might not be available as often as needed or be limited in how and when they can communicate and finish tasks.

Communication Styles

You and your friend may communicate very differently. Although it might not bother you when they fail to reply to a text for a few days, that type of behavior can get frustrating fast as a business owner. Up to 44% of business projects and goals are left incomplete or failed due to poor communication, and you don’t want yours to be one of them.

Risking the Friendship

70% of all partnerships ultimately fail. It may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the cold, hard truth. Most of the time, a failed business enterprise founded by friends results in the end of the friendship as well. It’s safe to say that personal life and business probably don’t mix.

How to Say “No” to a Friend Who Wants to Join Your Business

Be Understanding

First and foremost, try to empathize with your friend and understand where they’re coming from. The reason they’re interested in your business is may be that they can see its promise and want to be involved. Although it may not be ideal, their interest is an excellent sign of the potential of your enterprise.

Although working with a friend can mean more support during times of stress, there are other critical aspects of running a business where they may fall short. For example, many companies require a certain level of expertise in the related industry. Hiring someone just because they’re your friend can risk your business’s reputation when they fail to demonstrate capability in that field.

It goes without saying that you don’t want to hurt your friend’s feelings – but your company’s success is in your team’s hands. So be compassionate and express appreciation for their interest and willingness to help, even if you don’t intend to work together.

Don’t Avoid Them – or the Conversation

Avoidance creates contempt. The longer you put off having this conversation, the harder it will be to have it when the time finally comes. In addition, don’t ignore your friend’s calls and messages – this can lead to mixed signals and misunderstandings. If you continue to ignore them, it could even jeopardize your friendship.

Instead, take a more straightforward approach and be open to the discussion. A good friend will understand and won’t pressure you to take them on just because you’re friends. But, if they persist, set a polite but firm boundary.

Be Direct & Honest

Communication is key, and that adage also applies to conversations we don’t want to have. So even if you’re experiencing anxiety or frustration, you must communicate authentically with your friend about your business and the situation surrounding it. Be honest about the reasons why it won’t work out. Tread lightly to avoid hurting their feelings, but don’t beat around the bush.

For example, if a friend is interested in joining your business idea for automotive parts but they have zero experience with the industry, tell them that you appreciate their interest but would rather take on a field expert. If your friend struggles with things like deadlines or has a tight schedule, make your reasoning clear. It can help prevent confusion and resentment later on.

Offer Another Option if Possible

Chances are that your friend is just excited to be involved in your life and wants to work on something bigger than their day job. In that case, your company doesn’t have to be their destination. Instead, suggest other opportunities for them to pursue, especially if they’re related in some way. Doing so can encourage your friend to take action and start a project of their own.

Don’t Give Them False Hope

One thing you definitely don’t want to do is give your friend false hope. Sometimes, during difficult conversations, the pressure to compromise can be intense. If your friend gets pushy and won’t take no for an answer, don’t tuck your tail between your legs. Instead, double down and set a boundary. Let them know that your “No” is a permanent answer. It may sound harsh, but sometimes the truth is necessary to hear.

If you feel pressured to work with them because of their persistence, that’s a great example of why you shouldn’t be working with them in the first place. Don’t take the easy way out with lame excuses like, “It’s just not a good time,” or “Maybe later down the road.” This false hope leaves your friend waiting for a “Yes” that’s never coming, which is unfair. Unclear communication will cause more hassle in the long run, so take this time to be clear and direct.

The Bottom Line

Sometimes, a friend is better left as just that: a friend. There are inherent risks in founding a business with a friend, and you don’t want to have to choose between the friendship and your business. Telling a friend “No” when they ask to join your company can be difficult, but if you learn to navigate it carefully, your friendship and business can remain unscathed.

Ari Bratsis
Team Writer: Ari is a writer, blogger and small business owner based in Washington state.

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Team Writer: Ari is a writer, blogger and small business owner based in Washington state.

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