Restoring Relationships As An Entrepreneur

Life as an entrepreneur is far more strenuous than that of your 9-5 stable-job friends. You have multiple job roles and responsibilities, work hours that eat into the night, and risks that put everything at stake. All that keeps you going is the burning passion for your business idea and your dream for the heights it can reach.

But amid your fast-paced all-consuming entrepreneurial efforts, you might have lost touch with all your old friends and family. After you declined their invitations a few times, they may have stopped reaching out altogether. 

And chances are, in the few brief moments you get between setting up your business, you feel awfully lonely. 

You don’t have to sacrifice your relationships for work. 

It’s important to remember why you started this journey in the first place: to be independent enough to work the way you want to.

Today, the importance of networking and social capital has become non-negotiable. It’s not just for your mental health and personal life. Enriching your life with the right kinds of people can present business opportunities you wouldn’t have come across otherwise. 

So, how do you reconnect and restore relationships that might have slipped through your fingers? Let’s find out.

Setting up boundaries

As the Founder, you have arguably the most amount of work. And you don’t get to take a vacation too often! But establishing boundaries between business and personal divisions of your life and help manage your time. 

Set aside hours in the day just for non-work related personal time. Don’t try to keep it for the weekends, because you’ll always have a million things to do that will take up your time. 

Make sure you have at least 3 hours every day designated for meeting people virtually or in person. If you live with family, this is also your family time when you don’t pick up work calls and spend time with them.

Initially, you’ll feel like you have 3 hours of empty time. Your entrepreneurial mind will start scolding you about productivity, and you’ll feel like restoring relationships is a waste of time. But try to stick to the process. 

It all starts with a phone call.

  1. Make a list of all the people who were once important in your life

This can be your closest friends from school, college, or previous workplaces. It could even be family members. 

Don’t hesitate to add your childhood friends to this list, no matter how many years have gone by!

Now that you have a long list of the relationships in your life that you once valued, it’s time to get in touch. 

  1. Following the order of the list, start calling these people. It might feel tempting to shoot them a text or email, but nothing is as personal as hearing someone’s voice. You’ll be able to read the emotionally-charged conversation way better. 

Use this format:

Say Hi. Say something reminded you of them and bring up a memory you share together. Make sure it’s a positive one, and follow it up with a compliment. Then ask them for a recent life update. 

The reason why we add a compliment is that very few people can resist flattery. Since you’ve been out of touch, they might be a bit annoyed with you or bitter. The compliment soothes the situation. Don’t make it too obvious, or they might feel like you’re compensating for the past. 

This is an example of what to say:

“Hey, David. How have you been? I went to a restaurant today and ate their signature burger for lunch and kept thinking about how much better the burgers you used to make are! I’ve always said this, and I’m gonna say it again — if you ever open a restaurant, it will blow up! What have you been up to?”

Don’t be obvious about the compliment. Don’t say this

“Hey, David! How’s my best friend doing? You’re the best, man. I went to a restaurant today and ate a burger, but it was nothing compared to how incredible your burgers are. You are the most talented, incredible cook I’ve ever met. I’m serious.”

Profuse compliments sound ingenuine and contrite. Acknowledge that time has passed, and you have no idea what’s going on in their life anymore.

  1. Make a plan to meet up.

After catching up and sharing recent life updates with them, make a plan to meet and re-establish a connection. If all goes well, they will agree to meet you in a couple of days. 

Be Honest

If the person on the call sounds very hesitant to meet you or declines your offer, take the honest route. 

Briefly apologize for the past without dwelling on it. Don’t make yourself out to be the bad guy and sound too remorseful, but focus on how things will be different from now on.

Say something like this:
“David, I know I haven’t been a good friend recently. I invested too much time in work and let go of some of the things that really matter. I really want to get to know you again and have you back in my life and be there for you this time.”

Don’t say this:
“I am so sorry, David, for not being there for you, especially when you needed me. I was a horrible friend, and I really hurt you, and if you can forgive me, I promise I will never ever do that again. Please give me a second chance.” 

While the second one sounds more emotional, it may make the other person feels distrustful of you. It puts them on a pedestal and makes the entire situation more dramatic. 

If all goes well, you’ve re-established contact and have set up a time and place to restore that relationship. 

The Meet-Up

When you finally meet the people you reconnected with, understand that they might be a little wary or uncomfortable with you. 

Don’t assume that things will jump right back to normal (though they might!). 

Be friendly and considerate. Be vulnerable and tell them some exciting news about your start-up (For example: “I’ve been wanting to tell you, we just got funded!”). If things haven’t been going well, tell them briefly that you’re going through a challenging time; but don’t try to get their sympathy.

After sharing the news, quickly shift the spotlight to them. Ask them a few questions about their life (their job, significant other, family) and take a genuine interest in everything they say. 

They should feel like the conversation is going both ways and that you are interested in them. 

Ideally, you should be able to break the ice, and it will feel like you’re back to being old friends. 

If that doesn’t happen and things are going south, don’t try to force it. Not all relationships can be saved, and that can be a good thing. 

If the person keeps accusing you of not keeping in touch and only wants to play the blame game — this might be too emotionally toxic for you to put up with. Gently let the person go; not everyone deserves a spot in your brand new life. 

Maintaining Relationships

Now that you have tried to restore all the relationships you listed out, you’ve probably gotten back in touch with some of those people. Some might not have worked out so well.

Make sure you continue to utilize those 3 hours every day to call your friends and family or meet up with them in person. Don’t underestimate video calls! They’re not just for your official business meetings and can be a great way to spend virtual time.

As an entrepreneur, you’re no stranger to challenging situations and occasional failure. That’s what will help you reconnect with people from your past because not all of them will end up being in your circle. 

The key is to learn from our mistakes. Now that you’ve been through the complicated process of losing relationships and then restoring them, keep in mind to not let this happen again. As you meet interesting new people in your life, try to stay in touch with them and show them that you care.