I have always had a problem maintaining friendships. I know many people who know think it’s because I’m a bit of an a-hole, but it’s more than that. For one, I move around a lot. It’s hard to really establish friendships when you are in and out of a city in about a year.
The second reason I think it that I have switched jobs a lot, and never really did well with others at work. I have always envied the way some people can become friendly with an entire office. I was more of a one-on-one person. I can get along with people, but I wouldn’t really establish a friendship.
So, for the past few years I have made an actual attempt at maintaining some of my friendships. I have two friends, Chris and Phil that came about at the unfortunate time I decided to do this and now they can’t shake me no matter how far I move away and how little the email me back. I am determined to make them lifelong friends. So guys, you may just want to off yourselves if you’re looking to get rid of me.
But the biggest challenge I have had in friendships is maintaining friends in business. Over the years that I have run USWeb, I have meet many people that I really liked. But, maintain a friendship has been close to impossible.
For example, I made a friend named Mike. He was a key decision maker for big client. So naturally I tried to create a relationship there. But that ended up pretty easy because I genuinely liked Mike. He was a smart, funny guy who I really had a lot in common with. We both had sons around the same age, and we were dealing with very similar issues when it came to their school. The business between our two companies was rocky at times, but for the most part I stayed out of the messy details and kept our relationship friendly. But, when you’re friends with a business associate, you spend most of your time talking about business. And eventually you find something to work together on that makes sense. That’s what happened, and it should have been a great deal. But unfortunately his boss is a bit greedy and stupid, which is a bad combo in business. The deal got screwed up to the point of near litigation, and the fact that he had to side with his company ended the friendship on a very sour note. I really learned a powerful lesson about friends on that. Much like a girlfriend, the closer they are, the more bitter the end.
When I started the company I was working with another friend. He made some positive suggestions, and we started off in the right direction together. He was incredibly funny and we had a lot in common. I can honestly say that he was one of the best friends I had. But, he just never really put much into the company, and since his compensation was tied into performance, he didn’t make a lot of money. Of course this started to affect the friendship, and we parted ways both as business associates and friends.
I read once that as a manager, you learn to like your performers. I feel like a sell out saying that it’s true, but it is. I am closer now with someone who works for me, that I honestly never felt much of a personal connection with, than with my old friend. It’s not that this person is a bad person; he is just very, very different.
I had one friend, whom I still believe is my friend that was a competitor. When we first met, he was a bit of an ass to me. I don’t think that’s his nature, it was more the environment, and he didn’t know who I was. But after he got to know me after a few minutes, he was incredibly thoughtful and pleasant. He has always been almost too nice. I would keep guarded thinking that he was looking for a competitive advantage, but he already had it. I really believe he is one of the most sincere, decent people I have met in my life. But, he has pretty much cut off communication with me over the past 18 months. I know we beat him out on a few deals…okay, we beat him out on almost every deal we go up against his company, but we play fair. I make sure that no one ever bad mouths his company, or him. And I have never heard of him doing otherwise. I just think maybe he has had to be a bit more defensive against us. Which I totally get, I just miss hearing from him.
And the last friend I’ll talk about is someone whom I have known for a few years now. We initially met through a company I worked at before I started my own. We stayed in touch and worked on a few deals together. The thing about this friend is that he is the most reasonable guy on the planet. I like to think I’m also reasonable. So, I think we will have a friendship that outlasts the business relationship. When a deal is going badly, I try to be fair in working with him to make up for it. And when he gets frustrated, he always tries to make it clear that he is not taking anything personally. I have also made sure to try to keep my distance a bit emotionally. I have learned it to be unprofessional to develop too close of a relationship with business associates. But, I really could see being great friends with this guy someday. He is entering an exciting new time in his life with a new family, so maybe in the near future.
Making friends in business is hard. And I’m not talking about sending someone a LinkedIn or Ryze invite, I hate that shit. I mean real friends.
I’m not sure why I felt compelled to write this. This is just something that has been on my mind for the past few weeks. I think I need to look for friends outside of business, but that is so hard to do when you live a company 24/7. And I’m just crap when it comes to meeting people. So, I guess I just have to work harder on this whole thing. Not having a lot of friends kinda makes you feel like a dick sometimes.