Entrepreneur lessons – At times we need to give a little more thought to our actions as business owners especially when it involves clients. Here are a few of the hardest lessons I’ve learned over the years. I hope they can save you a lot of time and misery.
Entrepreneur Lessons That I Learned the Hard Way – Be careful who you surround yourself with in front of your clients
I had a situation a few years back where I took a “friend” to an event because she was out of work and I knew there would be people there that could help her get back into her field. The VP of the company wanted me to ride with him to the event and I sat in the lobby with her while he got dressed. When the VP came downstairs and was ready to go, she complained that her feet were hurting and we were walking too fast. FIRST WARNING! We get to the event after the VP and I slow down for her and she speaks to everybody and she had a drink which leads to another drink and another drink.
She gets drunk and I can hear her slurring her words and speaking loudly while I’m talking to colleagues on the balcony. SECOND WARNING. I pull her to the side and tell her “You are drunk and you are talking too loud bring it down a few notches. She agrees and 10 minutes later she is even louder. THIRD WARNING. I am HUMILIATED and EMBARRASSED and my client is being cordial but I can tell he is not impressed.
I opt to leave the event early just to get her out of there. As we leave she goes for the final coup-de-gras and asks several people for their cards. I was MORTIFIED as they all lied and said they didn’t bring any cards. FORTH WARNING. We leave and she takes off her shoes and is complaining about her feet again as we end up in a coffee shop and she is now fully drunk. I can’t believe I invited her and I KNEW she had a drinking problem but I was trying to help her get a job. The next day at another event, I had one glass of wine to try to relax after the mishap the night before and I got tipsy myself. I usually don’t drink. Now I have made my OWN impression.
While the client still does business with me, they have not invited me to any of their events since, and it’s been 3 years. I mentioned to her that she made a fool of herself and I was trying to help her and she did what people like her do, she told me I was overthinking it and that I should not care what the client thinks. I should have never expected an alcoholic to take responsibility especially when she then stated she was not that drunk.
LESSON LEARNED: I have a bad habit of always looking out for others even to the detriment of myself. I should have escorted her back to her car and sent her BACK home when she complained about her feet and wanted the client to wait while she tried to maneuver in high heels that she could not wear. All of this could have been avoided if I had stopped everything right there or not invited her at all-knowing her history, which I did. I have to take full responsibility for this grave error for trying to help a “friend” out. I put the word friend in quotes because w
e have to KNOW who our true friends are as black entrepreneurs. There are some people who ACT like they are your friend to go along for the ride, to reap some of the benefits of your hard work, to pick your brain and drain you. My uncle told me when I was a boy that you must always make sure you deal with people in just about every circumstance, who have as much to lose AS YOU DO.
That’s how you establish trust. He was right, another black entrepreneur who was in the same field as me would have thought twice about doing what this woman did. I had to realize that most people are in the situations they are in by CHOICE. They don’t want to make the necessary moves to get out of a rut and we are not their babysitter. Some of us have been there too. You can’t lay your burdens on other people if YOU are not willing to do the work FIRST.
Truth be told this woman is an alcoholic and people who have addictions put the addiction ahead of everything else. Being her friend was too much weight on me so I had to let her go after a couple of other really negative experiences with her. When it comes to doing business make sure you surround yourself with people who have YOUR best interest in mind along with theirs and not just theirs.
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