Are Your Friends Helping or Hurting Your Startup?

It's essential to surround yourself with the right people.

By Rebecca Rachmany (CEO, Gangly Sister Productions)

Why are we talking about friends in a professional blog?  “If your friends don’t support what you’re doing, you need to get new friends,” said Jeff Keni Pulver (@jeffpulver) to a group of entrepreneurs.

So, how do you choose your friends? Here are some of the questions you need to ask yourself when choosing the people you spend the most time with.

1. When You're Having a Bad Day, How Do They Support You?

When you're in a bad way, and you call a friend, do they invite you out to get drunk, or do they pull you out of your funk?

A good friend won’t just listen to you put yourself down. She will either do what it takes to get you out of the funk, or help you work through useful solutions.

2. Where Are They on the Optimism Scale?

To be an entrepreneur, you need a tremendous level of drive and an unreasonable level of optimism. Stay away from negativity.

3. When You Quit Your Day Job, What Do They Say?

One of my colleagues once said to me “You shouldn’t be chasing that dream of comics and video for girls. What you need to be doing right now is getting a job and establishing your professional reputation.” He meant well, but I stopped calling him.

As an entrepreneur, if you decide to keep your day job, that’s a legitimate and even a wise choice. But don’t hang around people who tell you to abandon your dreams.

4. Do They Hold You Accountable?

Make sure your friends don’t buy your excuses for why you didn’t do something you promised to do or why you don’t have the results you want.

A CEO friend told me that he doesn’t make plans for his business, because things never go according to plan. I probed deeper and he realized that he always thought of planning as what he did with his staff, but had never considered his thousands of users as a resource that he should manage. It wouldn’t have happened, though, if we were just having lunch and letting one another go off about our problems without offering any criticism.

5. Are They Growing?

One of the truths of business is that the reward for solving a problem is a bigger problem. Did you raise that round of funding? Now you have to recruit some people. Successful launch? Now you have to make the product work. Whatever problem you solve, the next one is right around the corner.

You need to be growing and learning all the time, and it’s best to associate with people who are doing the same. If your friends are the kinds of people who go to the gym, to interesting courses, and who read books, they’ll always have more to contribute to you. They’ll understand that you’re growing too and not wonder why you don’t want to stay out late partying.

6. How Are They Doing Financially?

It sounds cold to choose your friends by how they are doing financially, in particular at this time in our history, when the middle class is being squeezed, when 95% of people haven’t saved adequately for their retirement, and when the gap between the rich and the poor is growing.

But if you don’t surround yourself with people with financial smarts, you’ll end up broke.

I spoke to a founder recently who has raised several million for his startup. But others in his industry have raised almost 10x that amount despite being two years behind his company in R&D. His attitude, not the market, was limiting his investment round.

Your attitude about money determines everything from your pricing through your burn rate, and how you save for your retirement. You don’t want to be hanging around people who pay for their vacations by getting into credit card debt.

The number one reason why startups fail is lack of cashflow. Before you even have a product, your startup is capable of sucking up all of your savings and credit if you don’t know how to manage yourself financially. To succeed, surround yourself with people who are responsible with their finances.


About the guest blogger: Rebecca Rachmany is the founder and CEO of Gangly SIster LLC, a new media company with the mission of transforming how girls are portrayed in the media. Gangly Sister is creating digital comics, video and in the future apps, that encourage and inspire girls to pursue career paths in technology and entrepreneurship. Rebecca has held management positions in technology companies for over 20 years, and has served as CEO of Tech Tav and Marketecht, profitable services companies, and is a mentor at Microsoft Ventures. Follow her on Twitter at @RebeccaRachmany.