Don’t Befriend Your Business Contacts

“Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does.” – Jane Austen (Emma, 1816)

I know a couple that has an unusual number of rich and successful “friends.” We circulate in many of the same social circles, but they end up becoming chummy with the billionaires, movie actors, and sports stars. They go to fancy parties. They have photo albums full of evidence.

These are smart, good-hearted, and attractive people. They are fun to be with. Their friendship, however, is an ephemeral blessing. You are happy to have their attention, but you are quite sure you’ll lose it the moment Mr. Famous walks into the ballroom.

It’s my personal belief that they secretly think they will one day benefit from their superior friendships. Like baking cookies for the rich widow on the corner, their efforts to make and maintain such friendships are based on a very bad idea.

And that is this: that friendship is a good way to get something from someone.

I don’t think it works that way. I don’t believe you can get what you want from someone by befriending him — unless all you want is the pleasure of being a good friend.

When it comes to networking and achieving your business goals, it’s usually better to make acquaintances than to make friends.

Successful people may well help you if they see you as a useful or interesting person in their professional world. But if you become their friend and then ask them for help, you bring up all kinds of difficult emotional problems — problems they’ve already had with previous friends and with their families. They will probably react very negatively to solicitations that come after the friendship is established. They may question your integrity.

If you are looking to cultivate the best possible relationships with your “success network,” keep them fundamentally about business. Yes, you can have a beer every once in a while or enjoy a baseball game together, but make sure the bottom line is business, or you may be disappointed when the time comes to ask for a favor.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]