In March 2019, I began to think about my commitments, business relationships, and friendships. Around 2018, it could have been the end of 2017, I don’t exactly remember, I had a mentor work with me about my leadership skills. We identified that I had difficulty saying no. It was not saying to no to everything. The opportunities I have difficulty saying no to, despite the fact that I didn’t have a lot of extra time, were those opportunities involving equity issues and opportunities to help friends. Unfortunately, saying yes to these commitments left me running on fumes because of the values I hold. I believe that I should be all in and give my best in all situations. Doing this for multiple commitments, caused me to have little time for family and friends. I also was getting little sleep. This was no way to live, so I had to make changes. That mentoring session led me on a path to map my future which continues today.
Even if you have a planned map out, you could go off the path and end up on a detour. I realized that’s where I was in 2019. I needed change. Unfortunately, when you take a detour, it is not always easy to get back on the right path. I used the majority of 2019 to get back on track which is why I have felt so good so far in 2020.
I have a friend who uses the word pretendship. This is how my friend defines pretendship: a pretendship is when you believe you have a friendship with someone, but it is actually an illusion; you really don’t have a friendship. I had three business relationships with people who I thought were my friends. In reality, we weren’t friends. The friendship was based on what I could do for the person. There was a lack of understanding of my work ethic and work values. In March 2019, I ended the first pretendship & business relationship. This situation involved using a lawyer. What I made clear, I was not here to play.
The lawyer gave me great advice. He said, “Many times the worse business relationships are ones that involve friends.” This advice was the catalyst for me to review my roadmap. I was no longer on the right path; I was on a detour. I had more roadblocks in the way before I could get back on course.
I write a lot. If you read my 2019 review, you know I wrote a combination of 228 articles, blog posts, and scholarly papers. What I did not mention was some of my work was in limbo. Back when I left college in 2006, I started tracking what I was writing, especially what I submit for potential publication. A reputable, well-organized publication tells you how long it takes for the publication to accept or reject your work. If the work is accepted, you are told when it is going to be published. What happened last year is I had more than one individual solicit me for work and then the work ended up in limbo. If I take time to write something for you or create something for you, I need clear communication on the process and updates if you are not going to publish the work or use the product or if you delay the publication or the use of the product. Instead of doing what I normally do, and end the business, I stayed in the business relationship because of the friendship I believed I had.
In 2019, when I was sharing my frustration about a couple of these situations when this was the case, another mentor I have said, “Well, how is that working for you?” That was the second light bulb. It was not working for me. Instead, I put reminders on my calendar to follow up and ask questions instead of saying that based on the terms of the business agreement, this business relationship is coming to the end. Once I identified the friendships as pretendships, I was able to hold true to my values and bring any relationships with those people to an end. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year or decade to start anew or end situations; do it immediately. Free yourself so you can be your best self and reach your goals.
I ensured I had ownership of my work….and of course, I got it in writing. In moving forward, this also meant taking autonomy of my podcast which I decided in May 2019 was an action I needed to take but at the right time. I could not officially make that move until the podcast came up for renewal during the first week of January 2020.
I have no ill will towards anyone. I told them all I hope to continue our friendship. If I’m being honest, it was a polite gesture because I know I don’t have a friendship with those individuals. I was being used for what I could do or who I could potentially connect those individuals to and there was little concern was for my well-being or my goals. One of the people actually showed up intoxicated to my house when my children were present. Real friends would not do this. Real friends check on you. They don’t only reach out when they need something. If you are the only person reaching out in the friendship and checking on the friend outside of the working relationship, it is a one-sided friendship…and that is just a pretendship.
Here are some tips based on my experiences during 2019:
1. Avoid business with friends, if you can.
If you choose to work with someone who is your friend, have a clear cut contract. For example, my podcast was set up that I could take it when I wanted and have full autonomy and ownership of all episodes at that time. There were no other circumstances in which I would have agreed to do my podcast. If the business relationship is not working with your friend, end it sooner rather than later. It is not worth the drama. If the person is actually a real friend, the friendship could be ruined due to the bad business relationship.
2. If they can’t pay on time or won’t pay you, don’t work with the person!
I had two individuals repeatedly pay me late last year. One even accused me of falsifying an invoice; I didn’t, and I proved that. Those who earned the right to be my Facebook friend saw my rant about that and my link to a particular Rihanna music video. I also had a publication solicit me for work with the promise of paying me if I had successful articles. The articles were successful, but the publication kept stalling about when I could be paid. Recently, I came across an article titled, “A List of Sh*t Black Women Ain’t Dealing with in 2020.” One of my favorite parts was this, “Cause you wouldn’t ask Becky to work for free! You gonna cut Becky a check! But when it’s a Black woman, you start talking about free and exposure and nonprofit.” The publication that was offering me exposure first and payment later were paying the white folks but not me. What was worse was the people who paid me late were black. Both of those people still owe me money. We will see if I get payment in full. If I don’t, I’m good. I don’t play with my finances. It is part of the reason my husband and I have a strong relationship. We don’t argue over money, we communicate clearly about what we do with our money, and we are working towards becoming completely debt-free. People paying me late or promising future payment does not align with the financial goals I have with my husband.
3. Understand the ownership of your work.
Before I agree to anything, I understand what rights I have to my work and what the ownership of that work is. Before you agree to any terms have someone review the terms before you enter into an agreement. The reason I was able to clean house in 2019 is that I took the language in my agreements seriously. I also filed copyright, which isn’t hard to do, in certain cases just for good measure. In 2020, I have already published, for payment, a piece I had in limbo for several months. My hope is that I will be able to do the same with the rest of my work that was not published yet. Now that I am a CEO of a company, I use my experiences and apply the lesson learned to my work. Anyone that is working with my business Barnes Brothers Books, LLC signs a contract. It’s best for all parties involved.
Hopefully, my transparency and these tips are helpful. Let’s keep rocking it in 2020!