Doing Business with Friends

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I was watching Rich Kids of Beverly Hills the other night and the story line had me thinking of the referral process. The conflict in the episode was actually a referral issue.

Dorothy buys a condo at The Century for $3.2M and needs decor. One of the friends in her circle is Roxy, an interior designer who is looking to build her business. Dorothy’s home in the best address in LA would be a great boost for her portfolio. When Jonny brought it up in conversation, Dorothy said, “isn’t she an intern?” Roxy didn’t get the job.

For the people you play with, the people who put you in the friendship bubble, it can be extremely difficult to see you as a business person. So, how do you shift their perception of you from “party girl” to “successful business owner”?

1. Deposits Into The Relationship

Roxy and Dorothy had an argument several years ago that left their relationship rather shaky. If Roxy wants to earn business and referrals from Dorothy she needs to works on the relationship to earn trust, credibility, and loyalty. What are some things Roxy can do to strengthen her relationship with Dorothy?

2. Horn Tooting

Roxy can bring up her work more often in social settings by practicing what we call “horn tooting.” When one of her friends asks the typical question, “how are you doing?” Roxy can respond with a quick tidbit about what she’s excited about that she’s currently doing in her business. This needs to be a very short and insightful nugget of positive information that reminds her friends about her business and her professional efforts. Remember, when using this technique:

  1. Keep it very short. People don’t ask how you’re doing to hear a long story.
  2. Keep it positive, just enough to give them a glimpse of your world.
  3. Be inviting. This is not a commercial or sales pitch or ego-centric diatribe.

There are other opportunities in casual conversation to bring up client stories and other ways of sharing about business without it being salesy. Always keep it positive.

3. Get a Referral Partner to Endorse You

Surely Roxy has some influential connections that run in the socialite circle who would promote her. She could also connect and build a referral relationship with another socialite building a business; they can then cross promote and send each other referrals. By building a referral partnership with someone that has influence with Dorothy, that referral partner could endorse Roxy to Dorothy and maybe even obtain an appointment.

In the end Dorothy and Roxy had a conversation to address the issue of them not working together. Dorothy stated that she wanted to keep business and personal separate. Yet, she’s looking for a referral to a designer? What Dorothy is missing is that for the successful referral-based business person there is a lot of crossover of business and friendship.

What Roxy is missing is that to be a successful referral-based business person, you must establish trust, credibility, and loyalty.

-Maile Collmer

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