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What Is Your Working Rule On How To Handle Friends Who Are About To Do Stupid Things?
Old 02-08-2009, 04:59 PM   #1
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What Is Your Working Rule On How To Handle Friends Who Are About To Do Stupid Things?

20 years ago we had some friends (a family). The guy had a good job, the woman stayed at home. He was making a long commute to Seattle from our town, so she got the idea that he would quit his job and they would together start a pie shop in the town.

I told them all the reasons why it would likely not work, and promptly lost them as friends. (They didn't do the pie shop, they moved to Seattle and he became a very successful manufacturers' rep in his field.)

But ever since I have always said, WOW, Groovy! no matter what hare-brained scheme a friend might come up with, 'cause I would rather they find out for themselves than chance losing a friendship.

To bring it to the present, Friday night I went out with a group of young people that invites me to functions from time to time. I like them all, and particularly the one couple to whom I feel closest. The guy is a C++ and Java programmer with apparently good skills, and a good high payng job. But for reasons that I don't really understand, he has become philosophically at odds with the corporate world, and so he wants to go together with a couple of semi-employed anarchist philosopher guys to do web design. I am sure they can scrape up some clients, in fact they already have. My feeling though is that there are way better ways to live that scrambling for low end web business.

One of these prospective partners has already lost a good looking woman because her ideas for how he should be spending his life were less laid back than his. My friend also has a Helen of Troy quality GF. I guess I just have a feeling that you shouldn't take too many chances with some types kind of risk.

So, I said WOW, GROOVY at the idea, but I feel not great about it.

What do you folks do?

Ha
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Old 02-08-2009, 05:07 PM   #2
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I have gone the opposite route from you. I used to be the Wow, Groovy type but now am more likely to say what I think.

In your context, as a senior member of the group a more conservative approach from you as to what he should or shouldn't do may be received just fine.
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Old 02-08-2009, 05:09 PM   #3
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Early in my life, I would have said, "Cool." Later on, I might ask, "Do you need an assistant?" Even later than that, I would furrow my brow and say, "Have you thought this through and talked to someone that has done this type of thing before?"

Now I say, "You only live once."
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Old 02-08-2009, 05:10 PM   #4
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First, my sympathies. It's tough to see friends making what appear to be huge mistakes.

Anyway...

First, I would try not to say anything unless asked for advice. My response would have been a guarded, "Oh, I see." with a friendly smile.

But then, if asked for advice, I couldn't lie. I would probably try to express my opinion as, "well of course, if ANYBODY could make it work, it would be you. But if it was me, I would tend to shy away from that because it looks like it could be disastrous because of a, b, and c." This is like walking on eggshells - - you have to be really tactful.

Most people make a lot of mistakes in life, and somehow manage to recover. For many it is a learning process. For others, it isn't. If you can be there to help them put their lives back together when things fall apart, without saying "I told you so", they'll probably be grateful for that.
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Old 02-08-2009, 05:39 PM   #5
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Here is what I would suggest - do not be judgmental at all. Don't be the guy to say it won't work. You've already learned how that works out.

But they are friends, so you still want to help. So try this:

Say something along the lines - yes, that sounds like it could work out great for you if things go your way. I'm sure you've thought about X, Y, and Z, and have contingency plans for bla, bla, bla...

That way, you shouldn't feel guilty for giving them false hopes (which I think is a bad idea), and you also didn't rain on their parade. You just listed some things that you know can be constraints to any new business. If they heed your advice and warnings, it may help them to succeed (which should make you feel good), or maybe make them realize they may be biting off more than they can chew. But *they* will come to that conclusion, it won't be you telling them.

If they ignore you, well, you tried. What else can friends do?

-ERD50

PS, I see W2R covered some of what I said - I would just actually come out with it though w/o waiting to be asked, since it seems to be bothering you. But that's me.
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Old 02-08-2009, 05:39 PM   #6
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I do nothing and say nothing (unless they expressly ask for my opinion).

A couple of friends made what I thought was a risky, if not crazy, decision. He is in a line of work with a modest and irregular income (stock market investments) and she had a very good job with a mid-size company ($150K+ yearly income + bonus + stock options + 401K match + full benefits) but couldn't stand her work environment anymore. She decided to quit and start her own business. I thought it was crazy given the state of the economy and of the stock market, but they never asked my opinion and I didn't say anything. They both are very intelligent people and obviously had thought about it long and hard and weighted the pros and cons carefully. I thought that it would be unwise, and potentially costly to our friendship, for me to meddle in their business and question their decision. Last I've heard, things were getting a bit dicy. Her business is in trouble (lost a couple of big accounts lately) and we all know how the stock market has done in the past few months. I am still at peace with my decision not to intervene. We are still friends. If they are in trouble they would be welcome at our house and our table anytime.
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Old 02-08-2009, 05:49 PM   #7
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If they didn't explicitly ask, I'd probably say little. But if they did, you could ask in an enthusiastic and naive way... How do people in that kind of business handle retirement benefits? Is it easy for small businesses to get health insurance these days? Maybe they'll take the hints.

Tough call, Ha, but in my experience offering personal advice to friends and family is frought with potholes.
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Old 02-08-2009, 05:50 PM   #8
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I'm with W2Retire--hers is the exact approach I would like to take, IF asked for advice.

I also would let it be known, subtly, that I was honored to be approached for advice. Inside, everyone dreads being told their ideas have flaws and they appreciate it if you recognize their courage.

That being said, I think the people who dumped you, long ago, because you were honest with them about what you thought of the pie shop idea, weren't really friends. They only saw you as a "foil" for their idea and so, when you gave friendly advice, you were getting out of the box they'd put you in.

I'm not sure of the relevance of whether some guy's girl friend will dump him if he makes a mistake - so what - women and men will make their own decisions, based on their own reasons. If a nervy entrepreneur is what he is, he needs to find someone who will love that aspect of him.

And you also make it sound like, the main reason you don't want the guy to lose the girl is because you consider her gorgeous...that if the guy lost an ordinary looking girl friend, it would not be so tragic, kind of like "that was a cheap car anyway, so what if it got dented"...let me know if I'm reading you wrong?
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Old 02-08-2009, 06:01 PM   #9
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I have found that unsolicited advice WILL BE ignored and, most times, solicited advice is really a request for reinforcement for the idea. Kind of a catch 22 situation - usually I would just say something like "I'm sure you have given this some really good thought and I wish you every success; if you think I can help in the future just let me know". Usually, that will end it, and if not, I think future requests are more sincere and then, maybe, any advice provided will actually be considered.
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Old 02-08-2009, 06:06 PM   #10
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Unless it is the stupidest idea I ever heard I usually just listen . Too many times I've seen people get involved especially with other people's relationships and suddenly they are back together and no one is talking to you .When my daughter decided to leave college to become a stand up comic and she is not even funny . I had to speak up and speak up and speak up again and rant and rave. Luckily she listened to her Mom and stayed in school .
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Old 02-08-2009, 06:14 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by haha View Post
A ----- I told them all the reasons why it would likely not work, and promptly lost them as friends. .... (They didn't do the pie shop, they moved to Seattle and he became a very successful manufacturers' rep in his field.)

B ---- To bring it to the present, Friday night I went out with a group of young people that invites me to functions from time to time. I like them all, and particularly the one couple to whom I feel closest. The guy is a C++ and Java programmer with apparently good skills, and a good high payng job. But for reasons that I don't really understand, he has become philosophically at odds with the corporate world, and so he wants to go together with a couple of semi-employed anarchist philosopher guys to do web design. I am sure they can scrape up some clients, in fact they already have. My feeling though is that there are way better ways to live that scrambling for low end web business.
Ha
A couple of thoughts:
1. The above sound like acquaintances.
2. Friends would know you and how you speak and be open to your thoughts and understand them in the context of friendship and your concern for them.

As to the above I'd say the issues lie (or is it lay?) not in the friendship issue but in
1. identifying the issue ---- Listen to why they want to do something - not the what. Explore the Why with them to identify their current problems and goals.
2. how you presented your concerns - explore with them their long term goals that might indirectly bring into play your concerns.

A & B above - reminds me of those who are burnt our on their current job and go directly to wanting to ER instead of exploring other options. The people are in crisis and may not have identified the issues and options objectively.

Look into active listening skills
Google active listening videos

Active Listening - Improve Listening Skills with Mind Tools
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Old 02-08-2009, 06:35 PM   #12
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When my daughter decided to leave college to become a stand up comic and she is not even funny . I had to speak up and speak up and speak up again and rant and rave. Luckily she listened to her Mom and stayed in school .
LOL! You guys have excellent comments. These are true friends that I enjoy a lot, and I think I woud rather be certain that I will go on enjoying them and they me than try to save something that may not even need saving. And in any case, they are grownups with a lot of experience in life, so they may know more than I do. They certainly know more about themselves than I do.

As far as tact, I'm afraid that most of you know that tact is a stretch for me anyway. I try, but it's like my mouth has a preference for impact over tact.

Ha
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Old 02-08-2009, 06:50 PM   #13
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"Wow, what an interesting idea! What ever made you think about trying it?"

"How did you do your market research? What's the competition in your area? What do you think your starting capital will need to be? How did you estimate your marketing expenses? What does the city/county/state tax you on these days?" ... and so on.

At some point I'd comment that I'd be too worried about [insert long list of concerns here] to try that, but that it sounded like they'd really done a good job of researching it. Best of luck!

Or else at some point I'd say "Oh." And then let them choose the subject.

After all, if they really wanted my advice then they would have asked me for it instead of telling me about it...
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Old 02-08-2009, 07:29 PM   #14
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I'd ask them during the course of discussion what the VCs are currently funding. If they don't know, then divert the conversation to what Nords said. Ask them if they have written a business plan. Then go down the list from the market opportunity, the market size, their marketing plan, their sales plan, their operations plans, their HR plan, and their financial plan. If they are smart, then they will realize that starting a business is not easy. If they say that business plans are for morons, then I would stop talking. I had conversation with people who wanted to start a business without even knowing the market size. I stopped talking to them after that conversation.
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Old 02-08-2009, 07:35 PM   #15
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I would encourage them to find a way to gradually work into this new deal while keeping the security of the corporate gig if possible. Kind of a "don't burn that bridge until you prove it's safe on the other side" approach.
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Old 02-08-2009, 07:50 PM   #16
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Hmmmmm..pie..
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Old 02-08-2009, 08:44 PM   #17
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I'd say, "Sounds a lot like what I'm planning." "I'm negotiating to buy the Arthur Murray School of Dance rights and open 10 dance studios in Seattle, gonna hire 10-12 people as dance instructors at each place." Gonna get a loan for $2.2 mil. "I got the idea on a hot tip from a dance instructors agent."
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Old 02-08-2009, 08:55 PM   #18
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I'd say, "Sounds a lot like what I'm planning." "I'm negotiating to buy the Arthur Murray School of Dance rights and open 10 dance studios in Seattle, gonna hire 10-12 people as dance instructors at each place." Gonna get a loan for $2.2 mil. "I got the idea on a hot tip from a dance instructors agent."
Add an internet strategy, get some venture capital, and then to pubic - you'll make a fortune in no time!
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Old 02-08-2009, 09:03 PM   #19
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.

So, I said WOW, GROOVY at the idea, but I feel not great about it.

What do you folks do?

Ha

The last time I said "Wow Groovy " . I was wearing tie dye and smoking wacky weed.
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Old 02-08-2009, 09:07 PM   #20
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Wow, I appreciate that advice. I am setting the alarm early to get to B of A for that loan before anyone else thinks of it.

You've convince me.

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Add an internet strategy, get some venture capital, and then to pubic - you'll make a fortune in no time!
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