Are you a “friend” or a “fiend”?

I am a scale model of myself

I am a scale model of myself

I recently had a couple of situations arise where I lost friends.  When I speak of friends, I do not refer to the arbitrary label placed on people who frequent Facebook, but the real thing.  Or at least what I want to believe is the real thing.

The first friend I lost, I managed to get back without too much fuss.  The situation we found ourselves in was sort of ridiculous, the result of several Facebook exchanges at the conclusion of which he un-friended me and then blocked me from communicating further with him before I had a chance to set the record straight.

I went to the trouble of writing him an apologetic email which led to a real time Skype call and within the space of a few hours we apologized to each other and realized that we were both being drama queens and made up.  It was one of those warm, feel good moments that makes your bottom lip quiver and your stomach rumble.  As  result of the exchange, the complication and how we solved it, I feel that he and I will be great friends forever.

In the end I said how silly I thought it would be if he and I ended a friendship over a Facebook exchange where he could not hear the intended tone of my voice.  It was obvious that not speaking to each other in our real voices is what created the confusion when a comment, written tongue in cheek, was misinterpreted and remolded to become a catalyst for something completely unexpected.

Lesson:  Never take a Facebook conversation at face value.  When in doubt, try to put your emotions aside and talk about it, real time, on the phone!

The second friendship I lost may, in fact, be lost for ever because the offending action was far more damaging.  It has been said “never mix friendship with business”, but I have a problem with that statement because I have done business with many friends and it has all worked out okay

There have been a couple of occasions when it has not worked out and my theory about these failures is fairly basic:  The person who claimed to be my friend was not my friend at all because, when push came to shove,  there was no parity in how we valued each other.  Ultimately, they didn’t give me the value and respect that I believe I deserved.  Let me be clear about this.  When conducting business with friends, I go out of my way to provide them with exceptional customer service because, as my friend, I believe that they deserve my best on all levels.

I have a simple philosophy regarding friendship.  The people that I regard as friends have been awarded the highest value in my life.  They rate higher than anyone else because I respect them, I must if they are to truly be my friend.

Recently, one of my newer friends had taken an interest in my diverse skill set and was trying for months to figure out how to get me involved in his business.  After looking at my on line portfolio, he started suggesting that I could be his company’s “Brand Manager”.  I was grateful, but also wary as I didn’t want to jeopardize the friendship. He said that our friendship was solid and all he wanted was to put my skills to work for his company.

Several months later, I woke up one morning to find about a dozen business related messages from him in my mailbox requesting help on several things, an offer of wages totaling $1000 a month and a deposit in my paypal account of $400.  He seemed very serious, and aggressive, about retaining my services, so after reading all of his emails,  I gave him a call, talked about what he needed and then, after a lengthy conversation, set to the immediate tasks he had asked of me.

He contacted me several more times over the course of the day.  I sent his $400 back to him because he had, without asking me, deposited the “retainer” to the wrong account.  I instructed him to re deposit the funds to a local account.  He had asked for some help in creating video storyboards and print materials that he needed to take to a conference 48 hours later.  I dropped what I was doing and  spent about 16 hours on that first day sending him drafts, making changes that he asked for and fulfilling a few other tasks he had requested.  It was a busy day. I didn’t give much thought to the fact that he did not re deposit the funds in the proper account.  He was my friend, so I just trusted that he would do it eventually.  I began work for him in earnest and on good faith.

Before the day ended we had a conversation about how much I would charge him for a day’s work.  I told him that a 16 hour day would cost him about $300.  I explained that I was giving him a 50% discount on my actual hourly wage of $37.50 because… he was a friend.  He only had to pay $18.75 an hour and would probably get a little extra attention… because…he was my friend .  He told me, rather bluntly, that he was hoping for a better rate than that and seemed a little indignant.  I told him that I simply could’t work for less and that, at the end of the day,  it was simply about the overall cost of living equation I had to live by.

He asked me to give him a quote on what $3000 would buy him in terms of my time over the next three months.  I was happy to oblige him.  He had asked for a lot of things, so I did my best to include as much of it as I could with out being unrealistic about my time.  In the end the quote reflected a 50% discount on my standard fee.

The next day I got an angry email from him telling me that i was out of line and that I was charging him way too much.  Upon reading his email, I gave him a call.  I didn’t get to say much, he railed on, angrily, about how he was trying to do me a favor and asked me how I could be so thoughtless as to charge him so much.  The first thing I said to him was that I was happy to go over the quote in detail, perhaps negotiate it further and, secondly, if he thought that my quote was outside of his budget I would understand completely if he withdrew the opportunity.

No harm no foul.  Meet you at the pub for drink  later?

I could not understand why he chose to get angry over a quote.  At one point he said “I’m trying to help you out” to which I responded “I have to charge what I charge, would you prefer that I work for less than my value?  Do you have a budget, do you need this job done for free?  Maybe you don’t need me, maybe you would do better to hire somebody who is fresh out of school”

He hung up on me and then sent me an email telling me that I had offended him by suggesting that he wanted me to work for free.  He also went on to tell me that charging him $300 for 16 hours of work was unacceptable and that he was only going to pay me $150 for the day’s work and that he didn’t think I should even be getting that.  I had done some great work that day and he was on board during all of it giving great positive feedback and requesting changes, so his reaction seemed really out of place.  I was dumbfounded and, genuinely interested in salvaging both the friendship and the business relationship, I wrote to him to explain the equation that determined my hourly rate.

My wage equation is, like my definition of friendship, reasonably simple and straight forward.  I base what I charge for my time, firstly on my expansive skill set, then on my decades of experience and, lastly, on how much I have to spend every month to stay alive and build a future for my family based on ever changing market forces.   At the heart of this equation is the cost of our home.  We rent because we re not in  a position to own, although we would like to be.

Our monthly rent is about $2000.  The cost of feeding our family comes to about  $1000  month.  The cost of servicing our home, paying for utilities, fuel, insurance and our car comes to about $1000 a month.  I have to consider the future, so I try to save the same amount that I pay monthly in rent, because at some point I want to retire and I also have a family to raise.  Finally, I want to be a good consumer and do my part to drive the capitalist model which means having about $250 a week to spend on consumer goods, coffees, vacations, clothes, dance classes, accidents, equipment, furniture, whatever. We are not excessive people and don’t actually need that much.

When tallied together I need to earn about $6,000 a month in order to live a moderate life as dictated by capitalism.  If i shoot for $6000 a month then I need to charge $1500 a week, or $300 a day.  I could charge $250 a day if I work a six day week, but I want to spend time with my family and not be an absent father or husband.

My hourly rate needs to be 37,50 an hour.  That is what I am worth and anybody who calls me friend and respects me should accept that value I have placed on myself without question.

Buy giving my friend a 50% discount on the cost of the job,  I decidedly give of myself and my family and forgo much needed capital.  If, after making this concession, the friend disputes my rate and gets angry about a quote, then I must assume that he does not respect the value I have given myself.  Because he does not respect my own perceived value, I must, therefore, deduce that  he never was a friend, only a business operator who was looking for some one to exploit so that he could get ahead and using the cover of friendship to do so.

Am I sad that the “friendship” is over?  A little.  But that’s just me being emotional.  Lesson:  In the grand scheme of things he was never a friend because there was no respect, so in reality there was no friendship to loose.

Still, we live in funny times and the whole experience left me feeling a little empty and undervalued. The fact that this person refused to  calculate the effect that his greed would have on my 22 month old daughter’s future blew my mind.  Maybe he did know and refused to care.  To quote an old platitude “with friends like that, who needs enemies”