By Kim Kaupe, co-founder of ZinePak.
There are countless articles, books and podcasts dedicated to advising aspiring and new founders on how to connect, build and sustain relationships within the entrepreneurial community. However, these resources seem to frequently leave out the obvious. What about the friends that you had well before your entrepreneurial journey? Where do they fit in, and how can you best utilize them to your full advantage during this new adventure? Below are four fast ways to leverage your pre-founder friendships:
- Give them the 411. Give your inner circle full six-month, one-year, and two-year breakdowns of your plans. This accomplishes two things: First, it sets expectations in terms of your time commitment to things you might have previously been available for -- brunches, birthdays, vacations, etc. If you aren't able to attend, friends will have been given fair warning. Second, it helps your friends inform others of where you are and why you are missing these events. For example, "Kim can't be here because she is working on ZinePak. We are so proud of her. It launches next month!" sounds a lot better than "Ugh, I just don't know where she is. She keeps blowing us off at every turn." It also helps to have those closest to you spread the gospel with excitement and the inside scoop on what you're creating.
- Find your cheerleader. In your existing group of friends, identify your best cheerleader(s). These will be the individuals you can call when the day is going poorly, the prototype failed, an investor dropped out, the launch didn't go as planned, etc. They will be the people you can complain to and, in general, completely lose all composure in front of. They will be the ones to lift you up with kind words, dust you off, order you a pint of ice cream, and tell you tomorrow will be better. Find these friends, tell them you are appointing them to this position and then use them at will.
- Find your "side eye." In your existing group of friends, identify the best "side eye" in your group -- the raised-brow friend who, when someone starts getting a little out of touch with reality, brings them right back down to earth. When you start winning awards, getting quoted in publications, and doing interviews, this will be the friend who will gently guide you back down to your humble origins. For me, that was when WeWork, our amazing co-working space, put my (giant) face on a billboard in Times Square. My mom flew up, my friends had seen it; it was all very exciting. My oldest friend and college roommate, Jenna, my mother and I were finishing dinner, and my mom had expressed interest in walking up to Times Square to admire the billboard. Jenna lovingly said, "I have an early morning I'm just going to catch a cab home." Jenna had no interest in seeing my face in Times Square because she just saw my face for two hours -- in the flesh -- at dinner. You need these types of friends to ground you when the chaos wants to sweep you up.
- Escape the bubble. This original pre-entrepreneurial group of friends will help you escape from your founder bubble. Putting together pitch decks, worrying about launches and commiserating with fellow founders will become your new normal, leaving you with a desperate need to, at times, turn it all off. Walking away from your founder bubble and returning to a group of friends who allow you to talk about sports, politics, fashion or simply bad reality TV is essential. This group will feed your creative juices, catch you up on life's happenings and push you back into your entrepreneurial endeavors with a fresh recharge.
While the first reaction may be to dismiss pre-startup friends as "not understanding" or "not able to relate" to your new circumstances, it is beneficial beyond measure to include them in this journey with you. The phrase, "It takes a village" holds true. You should include as many villagers as humanly possible! Entrepreneurship is a long road, but having the right people around you makes the ride that much sweeter.
Kim Kaupe is the co-founder of ZinePak, a superfan-focused company that creates engaging fan packages for entertainers, brands, and celebrities.