Female terms are used herein because, well, I’m a female. But this is good advice for the guys, too.
Your friend has a business and you want to support and encourage her in her endeavors. You desire to see her succeed. Maybe it’s a small start up or a small struggling business she’s working hard to get off the ground. And she’s superb at what she provides, be it a product, product line, or a service.
Problem is, you don’t know how to really assist her in achieving her goals because maybe you don’t need what she offers. Perhaps she designs websites, but you don’t have your own business. Maybe she started a home repair business but your home isn’t in need at this time. She does computer repair, but yours is still under warranty. Maybe she provides bodywork like massage or energy work, but you don’t yet understand the need for it in your own life.
How Can the Genuine Friend Be Sincerely Supportive?
Here are 9 thing you can to do help, both online and off. (If you happen to be a business owner whose friends say that would like to help but don’t know how – so they end up doing nothing – by all means, send them this article!)
- Actually buy her product/service, even if you’re not her target customer.
Yes, actually buy something from her even if you don’t ‘need’ it. Think of all the people you know and come into contact with throughout your day, as well as all your other friends, family, and neighbors. They have birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, weddings, work/career promotions, new employment, new baby, celebrate holidays and so forth. You can give them a gift (or gift card/certificate) you purchased from your entrepreneurial friend. (And tuck your friend’s business card in with it! See #2 on this list.)
All the people you know also have needs and likes different from yours, and it’s likely you are unaware of all of them. Chances are some of them would greatly benefit from knowing about your friend’s business. What better way to introduce them than by giving them a gift? In doing so, you end up helping two people at once.
If you haven’t yet tried your friend’s particular product/service, maybe now is a good time to do so. You might find out you love it and don’t know how you lived without it all this time!
- Hand out her business cards.
You can give her business cards to people you know – even if you don’t know whether they need or want her product/service. Unbeknownst to you, it might be exactly what they’ve been looking for. You can share her business cards with family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and many others. If the person you share her business with doesn’t need or want what she offers, perhaps he will know someone who does and can pass along the information. Never assume you know for certain what someone else needs or wants or what the people they know need or want. You might be surprised by how many people genuinely thank you for sharing your friend’s professional business with them.
Anything you can do to simply spread the word about her amazing business in person will be a boost to her. Just one thing: unless you truly will give out her business cards, it’s probably better not to take them.
- Comment on her blog posts (if she blogs).
Commenting on her blog posts provides a sort of ‘social proof’ that your friend knows what she is doing, that she’s smart about what she provides and is interested in helping others be more informed about her product/service. Blogs tend to be the spot where more of the blogger’s (in this case, your friend’s) personality shines through because it allows room for being a little more personal than her website alone.
Commenting on blog posts helps increase the odds of more people seeing her blog, therefore her work as well.
- Like, share, and follow her Facebook page (if she she has one), and like, share, and comment on her Facebook posts.
Please like her Facebook page. Share the page and her page posts with your Facebook friends. Some of them might need her product or service. In addition, comment on her posts. These little things add up quickly in the Facebook world. The more you like, share, and comment on her Facebook posts, the more relevant they become, and the more her page posts will become visible to others. Facebook uses algorithms (you can find information about this elsewhere online if you’re interested in how this works) which determine how many people actually see her page posts, so the more you do these simple little things – like, share, comment – the higher her page will be ranked, which again means more potential views. And that means more people are exposed to her product/service, many of whom need or want it!
If you also happen to run a business, one where you can share (not steal!) customers/clients, the two of you can work together to cross promote and support one another. This provides strong ‘social proof’ for you both.
It doesn’t take much time and you’re already on there anyway, right?
- Spread the word on other social platforms – Twitter, Google+, Pintrest, Instagram, etc.
Again, you’re already spending time there, whichever platforms you happen to use; and sharing on these other platforms will help take a huge weight off your friend’s shoulders. The more people like you she has promoting her the better her business will do.
Maybe you’re concerned people will ask you about her product/service, and you don’t know think you know enough. Can you still promote her and do it well? Unequivocally YES! If you’re her friend, then you know her if not necessarily her actual product/service. So tell people about your friend, the person, and that those qualities – honesty, trust, compassion, commitment, integrity, all her positive attributes – are what makes her such a great choice. How would you describe her to someone who hasn’t yet met her? That’s what you share! Then you simply refer them to her website where they can ask specific product- or service-related questions.
- Offer your support and encouragement.
Your friend might need to know that you think she rocks – (Pssst! Doing the things in this list is proof of this in action.) – that you think, that you believe, she can do this.
After the past three years and the overwhelming turmoil they contained (personal life which completely knocked out most of my business along with it), which forced me to rebuild my entire business from scratch, I now face many days when I wonder if I still have what it takes, or if I should just call it quits on the thing I’m so damned passionate about. Few ever fully know it, if they know it at all. [And just for the record: no, I’m not quitting.]
Those random encouraging notes mean everything. Send one. Or pick up the phone. Definitely pick up the phone! Your true, honest, sincere encouragement could be the very thing that helps her take the next step, and that next step just might be the thing that launches her to success. And guess who she will be thanking? You!
- Respect her work hours.
Please don’t assume that because she runs her own business, especially if it’s home based, that she’s available whenever the moment strikes. Does she call or show up at your job just to chat? Probably not. So, please just don’t (unless it’s a true emergency). Her business hours are as valuable as yours. If you want (or need) to talk, set a date outside of her business hours. If her hours are flexible, still set a date. She probably wants and needs it as much as you do.
- If you’re going to offer criticism, make sure it’s constructive and that you have at least one possible solution to offer.
I admit I had no intention of going into business when I first began my holistic studies. I came into this field for myself after a serious injury that left me disabled, physiologically altered (which created other challenges I had to overcome), and in chronic pain. I was only seeking greater relief than I was receiving with conservative care. Growing a business was nowhere near the radar at the time. It simply happened; therefore, in spite of my business-related college education, I wasn’t prepared. It was messy going.
Every entrepreneur, intended or not, knows what it’s like to feel like she’s drowning in the endless list of tasks that need to be done. Having genuine friends who see things objectively can be of great help. If you see she’s struggling with something specific, point it out and suggest some possible solutions. If it’s something in your skill set, offer to help (only if you’re truly willing to) – without expecting anything in return. I once saw a post online that said something like this, “If you’re helping someone with the expectation of something in return, you’re doing business, not kindness.” If you want something in return, state it outright and up front. Also, if you don’t have any possible solutions, it might be better not to mention it. You know your friend, so you decide.
Keep in mind, that while you might have a possible solution, she knows her business (and her life) better than you do, so refrain from trying to force your possible solution upon her. Maybe your possible solution really will work; however, she might need time to digest your suggestion, especially if she’s already feeling overwhelmed.
One important point to always keep at the forefront: if you don’t really have your friend’s best interest at the heart of your suggestions, or even question whether you do, a closed mouth is always best.
- Ask her how she is and how business is going.
This one I can’t stress enough. In my personal world, these calls are rare indeed. I’ve been working with a business coach in a group setting, and we (the group, along with our coach) have a closed Facebook group where we can assist one another on specific strategies. And sometimes we get pretty personal. Recently one of my group mates asked me, simply and sincerely, “How are you doing?” At the time of this writing it’s been a week, give or take, and I still haven’t replied because it struck me deep and left me in tears at that moment. I was having a damn-blast-it-all day. It wasn’t the question so much as it was the utter sincerity in his query. Some days, some phases, are just like that; and we’ve all experienced them, business-related or otherwise.
I share that personal tidbit because I can’t express enough how vital it is to allow yourself to really care, to really listen when your friend tells you about her daily ups and downs, her successes and her failures. (This is true of any genuine friendship.) She needs someone to listen, to offer advice and encouragement. Sometimes just being a soundboard and acknowledging what she is going through will help her through her challenges and provide her some clarity.
Starting (or in my case, rebuilding) and managing a business can be tough, especially if she is heavily relying on the income from it. One of the most important things you can do is listen … Oh, and all the other little easy-to-do things mentioned above.
A little help can and does go a long way. You might never know just how much.