"I've learned that your passion for helping others with finances is strong and you excel at it!" This quote originated from my older brother after we closed on his refinance. If you have an older brother you might be able to relate with me when I say their approval means EVERYTHING! The age gap between my brother and I, 9 years, created a feeling for me that I was his annoying little sister who often got in the way. This was never his perspective, but instead mine, due to me not being able to engage in all the cool things he got to do growing up due to our age gap. Fast forward to March 9th, 2020 when my brother and I sat down to restructure his home loan. Of course, I was not overwhelmed by old feelings of annoyance, but I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Of course, I wanted to make sure that their refinance was the best financial decision for his family, but more importantly I wanted to be sure the experience was beyond excellent. Today, May 8th 2020 their refinance funded. I am beyond pleased with how well the transaction went. My brothers quote was, "sometimes timing is on your side and other times its a lot of strategy and a little bit of luck... we locked in an amazing rate for next to no points at just the right moment by being patient and anticipating the market. Amber and her team stepped up to the plate on this one and are right to be proud of their work." We had an amazing experience together as Brother and Sister in business. However, it was not something we easily walked into. It took preparation, honesty and selflessness to know if it was in both of our best interests.
I need to be 100% honest with you. If you can not uphold the following key boundaries and expectations when entering into business with family and/or friends then I 100% DO NOT RECOMMEND YOU DO. This blog post is my recommendations on how to do it with excellence from a professional to a client perspective. I will only endorse you attempting this style of business if you as the professional are able to do ALL that I am going to outline. If you do not, there is a high likelihood that mixing business with family and/or friends could go really really bad. I will address being the consumer/client on the other side of the business at the end of the post.
BOUNDARIES: WHEN & WHERE TO DISCUSS:
If you are the professional who is offering the service that the family and/or friend has come to for your expertise you are in the drivers seat. It is critical that you uphold a HIGH level of confidentiality and it must be something that is deep within you not something you embody, just because they are a family member or close friend. When you are in a social setting, you DO NOT bring up the topic unless the customer/borrower/client brings up the topic. Even then, you let them drive the conversation and you stay quiet unless they bring you into the topic. This is their purchase. It is not about you the professional getting the attention or sharing your voice. If the client brings up the topic in a public setting, you ONLY engage if they welcome you into the conversation. Additionally, if you have items you need to discuss while you are together and it is urgent be sure to privately ask them if there is an opportunity that you and the individual can step away to discuss. If I receive an email from my team and I know it is urgent I will still take the same steps I would with a non-family or friend relationship. Forward the email and within the email outline the need to discuss when they are free. Yes, they might be at the same picnic as I am, but I want them to decide when they want to address the urgent need.
Yes these people are your friends and family, but that does not dismiss the need for you to treat them and the service in a professional manner. If you usually do a first meeting to outline the process of the service you are providing then be sure you uphold your normal routine. The reason they are coming to you is because they have seen how seamless you execute. If you decided to skip out of your normal process then they are not going to experience you in your fullness. Yes it might seem a bit awkward to put on your professional hat, but it is critical you keep to your normal process and procedure. You will naturally want to cut corners, but I beg you do not fall for the temptation. If you are going to walk into this space of doing business with family and friends, you must keep to your normal process. If you have boundaries with other clients like not texting after a certain time, you do this with these clients as well. If you have a text message thread for friendship or family discussions, it is critical you evaluate if starting a new thread for ONLY the business discussions is necessary and best for the relationship.
SERVANTHOOD, WIN-WIN & SAME TEAM ATTITUDE:
Keeping your heart posture in a position of, this is about serving my client and getting them the absolute best outcome MUST always be at the forefront of every single decision and conversation. I can tell you this is the element of doing business with family, friends and even strangers that is the MOST critical. A heart posture that says, this is about you and I am going to do everything in my control to maintain a healthy and honoring relationship with myself and with you. I am going to uphold the rules and regulations I am committed to due to my license, and I am going to honor your needs, wants and desires to the best of my ability. This can be an opportunity to see everyones true colors! I have heard of so many horror stories where the professional allowed the consumer to call the shots throughout the transaction. They decided they wanted to cut a corner which then put the professional in a tough spot to decide if they should cut the corner, or uphold their moral and ethical business code. I have also seen professionals get lazy and decide to not work as hard for a family member or friend due to the desire to 'just take a break' and this puts both parties in a hard spot. It is critical that you as the professional stay as true to who you are in all other transactions as you are within this style of transaction.
Lastly, keeping a same team attitude is critical. Staying focused on the ultimate goal, which is to ensure that the consumer gets the outcome they desired from the beginning. It is your job, as the professional, to keep tabs on if that outcome is still possible as each step is taken in the transaction. If at any point that outcome is no longer possible honesty and respect MUST be upheld. This is not a chance to blame or get frustrated, but rather addressing what is happening, explaining why it is happening and communicating your opinion, as the professional, that the business process is no longer going to result in a win-win/same team outcome. No business transaction is worth burning a family or friend relationship over. It is possible to sense and be in tune to an unhealthy outcome before it is too late.
IF YOU ARE THE FAMILY OR FRIEND:
To choose if you should or should not do business with your family or friends is a really hard decision. For example: My brother in my earlier example could have easily gone to his current mortgage company and simply said, hey can you please refinance my mortgage? A Loan Originator would have taken his file and processed his request. It could have been awesome-we have no way of comparing, but he also would have been put in a tough spot. The thought he likely would have wrestled through was, "I know my sister does this same thing, what if she finds out I refinanced? How do I have this conversation that honors my boundaries, but also is honoring her and her profession? This is how she makes a living." To be honest, THIS IS SO HARD. I do not wish this conversation on anyone, however if we are all honest, we know this conversation and thought process is a very common one. Although it can be hard, it also can be done with excellence. If done with a high amount of honor, respect and zero selfishness it can go better than expected.
This conversation above, is real- it was the conversation my brother and I had. It was not easy and we both had to put on our adult hats and hear one another fully. We both gave space to one another to make the best decision for ourselves and our families. We both signed up to love one another regardless of the final outcome. I can tell you, I have never felt more understood and known by my brother than after we concluded our conversation.
My advice for any family members or friends wanting to do business with family and friends know that it is possible and can be done with excellence, however it must be taken with the proper preparation. Trusting the recommendations from the professional as they set the stage of the relationship is critical. This will help provide you with exceptional service with healthy boundaries. As I stated at the beginning, if the items above are not ones that you feel you are able to uphold in the business relationship then I do not recommend doing business with your family or friends. It just is not going to be worth it!