You have a friend who could be a great client because you know each other well.
This friend has never asked for help handling her money and you’ve never offered. Then she casually asks for advice.
What’s the problem? Often it’s the perceived risk—if we work together and something goes wrong, how do I unwind the business relationship and keep the friendship?
Use one of three approaches to keep your friendship alive while starting a business relationship.
1. “We’ve known each other for five years. You know where I work and what I do. I’ve never approached you for business because you’re my friend and that’s important to me. I would never want to put our friendship at risk.”
What have you done? You were honest with your concerns about the risk.
How can she politely back out? “I don’t want to do business with friends either.” Since she knows she can use this escape route it’s likely she’ll let you keep talking. So go ahead with your pitch unless she stops you.
2. “I’ve always assumed you work with someone who takes great care of you. Most successful people have those kinds of relationships with their advisors.”
What have you done? You’ve stated the obvious. But you’ve got her thinking about whether she’s truly valued by her current advisor.
How can she politely back out? She can agree. The alternative is she might say, “My guy doesn’t even know who I am. So what can you do for me?” Then outline your services and the type of returns you’ve had.
3. “It’s been a difficult time in the market for almost five years. You may know someone who hasn’t been as lucky as you. I’ve been able to protect my clients’ investments. So if you come across some of those people, I may be able to help them.”
What have you done? Asked for referrals in a non-threatening way. You could align the explanation to her situation so she understands how you can help her or her friends.
How can she politely back out? She might explain her friends don’t talk about financial issues. If she doesn’t say that, you’re on the right track and can keep the conversation going.
No matter your approach, be sure to tell your friend you want to keep the business relationship and friendship separate.
I’d tell my friends, “If you become my client and take my advice, you should get a report card to grade me. If I’m doing a lousy job you can fire me.”
The periodic portfolio reviews you deliver are the report cards. Select and blend the appropriate indices to give a realistic, honest review of performance.
In this way, you’re showing accountability. If things don’t work out they can unwind the relationship. It was your idea, so it lessens feelings of guilt if they choose to leave.