Remember back in junior high when having a best friend justified you were somebody? The two of you were probably in class together, you were inseparable and you wanted everyone to know you were best friends. You and your BFF got best friend charms, maybe you pricked your finger to be blood sisters, or you made friendship pins, or maybe you dressed alike, went on double dates. You passed notes in class and she knew every secret about you....until one of you (not naming names) slipped on a puddle on her bike in your back yard and fell off and then you laughed so hard you fell down yourself, and then she left in a huff….uh……sorry that was my, um I digress.
Well, I like am totally BFF with someone that lives ½ way across the country. The craziest part is I met her from writing this blog. And it is all because she felt compelled to send me an email complementing the blog, saying it made her laugh out loud. Since then, we have had the good fortune of meeting twice in person, and we will both be in Atlanta this July. We email, IM and sometimes talk on the phone. It’s like having an electronic pen pal.
Don’t think I am writing this to brag about one of my friends – our friendship is more complex than that. We are completely 100% (yes I said 100%) honest about our businesses and we talk constantly about it. You see she is actually in my industry and she is, to a certain extent, in the broadest terms, a competitor of mine. However, we don’t look at our little world that way, our products complement each other. We help each other out, we prop each other up, we tell each other when the idea is half-baked, we hold nothing back.
It is like having a mentor/coach/partner/support group all wrapped into one person…but so much better, and so much cheaper. She is better because:
· Mentors are based on a hierarchical relationship, we are both equals
· A coach would charge me, and may not truly understand my industry
· A partner….not a bad idea, yet for now we are both king, I mean queen’s of our own kingdoms.
· Support groups are great, most here in California meet about 30 minutes away only meet monthly, and most are in the technology sector – we talk daily.
We tell each other everything, yes I said everything. I have no fear she will blab to the world any of the ‘secret ways’ I have figured out how to do what I do. We have discussed ways to help her speed up her manufacturing and explored ways to possibly help each other in manufacturing our products. She and I often go over issues or problems, trying to hammer out a solution. We have blabbed about one topic in particular so often I think I might vomit if we have to address it again.
Review New Products & Themes
Having another set of eyeballs review a product before showing the masses is a good thing. Someone who is in my industry and knows colors, knows trends, knows competing products – she just KNOWS….this is a good thing too. Also, she does not work for me so she has no reason to lie to me. We don’t have a hidden agenda, we both (so she says, but I really mean it – no no I am kidding I know she means it) want each other to succeed.
Sales & Profits
I bet this makes everyone a little squeamish…..however we are honest. If I want help with the budget, or she needs to figure out why some product is not selling – we share all the information. It also levels the playing field, letting each of us know where we really stand. This information allows us to each exchange tips, give advice on sales and give suggestions or referrals if necessary.
Shoulder to Cry On
Yes, I have a cheerleader, he’s my biggest fan, and I am married to him. And yes his shoulder is MUCH bigger than hers. Sometimes, he does not get it though. Sometimes he has had ENOUGH of my business talk. Sometimes his advice sucks…..okay a little harsh, sometimes though I need a second opinion (ya ya that is what I meant to say). Sometimes I need a kick in the ass too, and she can do this without fear of personal retaliation.
I am Not an Island
I am Not an IslandLastly it is good to know that I am not alone. It is great to have someone out there going through what I go through. It is comforting to hear someone else just say, “been there and done that”. Sometimes putting on my creative hat and digging in to her problems forces me to look at my own company. Another Entrepreneur’s opinion goes a LONG way with me, especially one who has nothing to lose or gain by telling me I am totally wrong or right.
So…go on out there and find a Thelma to compliment your inner Louise, find Laverne if you are Shirley, a Nicole Richie if you are Paris Hilton……uh, scratch that last one. Definitely make sure and ask this question before giving her any of your advice, “Do you want my honest opinion or do you just want me to agree with you?”