Time management & entrepreneurship
December 8, 2013 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Recently, I became a full time entrepreneur. I am still struggling trying to have my product/ business up and running. Meanwhile a lot of friends are hitting me up asking to discuss their own ideas with me, ask me for career advice. Because i met them before i became an technology entrepreneur, they somewhat lack the understanding that the situation has changed enormously for me and that I can't meet them for brunch and lunch or have drinks discussing some vague ideas on which they themselves are not going to spend even one dollar pursuing. I often decline requests to meet saying I am too busy. But this is starting to get old. Is this an integral part of entrepreneurship? That one is going to lose some friendships due to the lack of time? These are nice people, so I don't wish to be curt with them. Please help me message this in a manner that reflects my reality as well as is not damaging to our relationship. Are there any best practices other entrepreneurs use in judging collaboration requests and passing on them without damaging the relationship?
posted by gadget_gal to Technology (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I would tell them that given your own business is fledgling/struggling, you can't claim any expertise and don't feel qualified to give advice yet and you'd hate to lead them astray. Basically you're in the same boat they are, except they have yet to put their money where their mouth is. Wish them the best of luck and maybe point put a few blogs or books you've found helpful.
posted by Jubey at 10:51 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dude, hold some kind of educational event, seminar, call it what you want.

Charge for it if you want. Don't charge if you don't want to.

Invite friends, potential clients, clients, ledes etc.

Discuss entrepreneurship, have Q&A

Great way to build biz while also helping others

And...perhaps best of all...you can do this all in one fell swoop, combining lots of requests into one get together. Do it 2x a year and when queried say "come to our next xyz event and we can chat there."
posted by Salvatorparadise at 10:52 PM on December 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

As to the wider aspect of loosing friends due to time constraints. One way to manage demands on your schedule is actually to initiate get togethers.

In particular you can try to aim for things that are not one to one most if the time so you can pay your social dues efficiently and socialise with more than one friend at a time.

The sort if person who requires you to have bruch every fortnight won't be happy with that so if you are close friends with people who require a lot if individual attention that's going to be more difficult to manage.

Finally, don't feel bad about saying no to things. If you friends continue to feel valued (because you do spend time with them albeit less and initiate contact) it's just one if these life changing things that requires revisiting how your life is organised, not just in terms of your social life but many other aspects.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:22 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

You need to be really upfront and say "I am so sorry but I am genuinely totally unavailable until after FOOAWESOME launches. It sucks but that's the way it has to be right now."
posted by DarlingBri at 12:29 AM on December 9, 2013

I'm not in quite the same situation but I write for a living (freelance, specialist area) and I've been through times where quite a few people have tapped me for ideas about getting their own ideas published.

The key is that people tend to be attracted to the creative, idea generating bit, but not all the hard work in making ideas real and income-generating.

I've found that a nice way to get out of getting sucked too far into these conversations is to quickly outline all that I have to do to run the business and make a living - writing content turns out to be if not the tip of the iceberg, certainly a smaller part of it and by far the easiest bit in many cases.

So outline all the legal, accounting, time management, stock management, planning, testing, mistake-sorting drudgery you're investing in and then mention that that's why you can't spend more time with them - it's only working because you're focused on it. The money's not just getting sucked in by that great idea you had!

And good luck with it.
posted by dowcrag at 1:03 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

One of the most important things entrepreneurs have to learn how to do is say "No". There's your lesson. Say "no" more and damn the consequences.
posted by dfriedman at 5:50 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a tough one. You do want to meet (and help) other people. It is a great source of karma, ideas, collaborators, money and more. But if you are not careful, it can be an enormous time-suck.

I've been an entrepreneur for 18 years, I have found the following helpful.
> Guard your time jealously. If you don't respect your time, no one else will. 30-minute meetings end in 30 minutes.
> Say "no" politely, firmly and regularly.
> Trust your gut about who and what will be productive, realizing that you won't always get it right.
> Leave the door open for serendipity.
> Tell contacts who want to discuss their wooly business ideas with you to give you a one-page summary (not 30 pages of chicken scratches) of their business plan. Most can't be bothered to do that, in my experience, and the idea dies a natural death.

Good luck!
posted by quidividi at 6:48 AM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

A combination of what Jubey and Salvatorparadise and quidividi say:

Now: Tell them that you first want to be sure that you're on track with your business, so not now, no, sorry. Beers off work hours fine, but no business chitchat.

Later: as soon as you're feeling like your own stuff begins to shape up, start mentioning that you could give a seminar in, say, a half-year's time.

Make this three quarters of a year (=raise your market value as an expert): now tell everyone that you're giving a seminar and that they can send in their business ideas, on one page, a week or two ahead of time. Charge whomever still wants to come a reasonable fee. Prepare, using their ideas as raw material, give them a nicely rehearsed small-business-101-per-aspera-ad-astra-con-details talk, focusing on positive aspects and on reality-check info, no snark.

This setup solves three problems: 1) you'll not be forced to talk about your business before you've gained enough experience yourself, 2) you won't have to engage in everyone's fluff on a one-at-a-time basis, and/or too deeply, and 3) you will get paid for the time you spend, while you'll walk away from there with the feeling of having given good advice.
posted by Namlit at 7:26 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Generally I get tired and flaggy late afternoon. So with these people, I have them meet me at 4:30 or 4:45 at my coffeeshop by my office. (Reducing my travel time is important.) They get 15 or 30 minutes with me, I get coffee, everything works out.

There are definitely periods when I cannot take this time. But the most important rule is:

* no fucking lunch
* no fucking dinner
* no fucking meals period.

But that being said... mentoring, chatting, sharing ideas, and just plain seeing other people is good and healthy in a large number of ways. This will benefit you as much as it will them. (I do weed out a certain number of requests that I know I can't be useful at all, but honestly, I'm always surprised by the coffee dates that are useful to me.)

(Elizabeth Spiers does something she calls something like "lunch consultancies"; if you take her to lunch, whether it's a burger or the Four Seasons, she'll give you her ears and her brain. It's a pretty good idea! I'd do that if I had the lunch time. But yeah, fuck lunch.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:39 AM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've been (and continue to be) on both sides of this. I've noticed a thing where I hit someone up for advice, referrals, or business whom I'd assumed was a little further along or farther up the food chain than I am right now, and when I get to talk to them, I find out that we're both cons, neither of us are the mark,* or more prosaically, both of us are trying to get something off the ground and neither can really help the other.

Nevertheless, execution should always trump ideas, socializing, or woolgathering, at least up to a point. On any given day, as has been suggested, guard the golden hours quite vigorously for whatever you need to be doing - coding, talking to customers, or whatever, and your buddies who are hoping some of that will rub off on them get the 3:30 coffee break when you're not able to concentrate anyway.

Another caveat - watch out for the "offer an inch, take a yard" variety of these new-found friends. The kind where meeting them once somehow turns into a commitment. And be pretty ruthless about detaching from these kind.

Nthing the ideas above about giving people with great ideas "homework." Amazing how often they can't manage that.

*there is the old line about if you can't figure who the mark is in a poker game, it must be you...
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:40 AM on December 9, 2013

Keep in mind that you did the thing that all of these folks haven't yet had the courage to do: you started a thing. That's why you're suddenly a thought-leader and a celebrity! Whoo! But yeah, it must be exhausting. If your community has a start-up meetup (easy to get one going), why not join? Easy to be active there and re-direct your fan club to that community. Those who are serious will keep coming back and get exposed to a broader base of advice. And, bonus, you will meet other entrepreneurs, too. (For old friends who you are trying to keep as "just friends," try redirecting to social events where talking shop is impossible--movies & concerts--until they get the hint.)
posted by Kalatraz at 3:31 PM on December 9, 2013

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