While on vacation last week, Matt and I toured of some of Croatia’s wine country. Perhaps you didn’t know such a thing exists. Well, it does! And the drink is delish! Between glasses of vino, I asked Mario, our tour guide, who he sold most of his wine to—could I buy it in a Croatian wine shop? Order it in a restaurant? How do people find his little vineyard on the Peljesac peninsula?
His response: “To me, wine is friendship. Wine is not business.” He gets together with all sorts of random folks, drinks a bottle or three, eats lunch and soon they become customers. No suits and Powerpoints, just a meal in which the wine flows as freely as the conversation.
Later in the week we met another tour guide, Ante, who owns a travel agency. Er, excuse me. A destination management company. “Tourism is my passion,” he said. “I must work with people I like. I won’t just do business with just anyone.”
Our American shtick is very “don’t mix business with pleasure,” whereas across the ocean the credo seems to be the opposite: make your pleasure your business.
I’ve only held two long-term jobs. I’ve made incredible friends at both—currently, I’ve got four work BFFs who I’m confident will be around long after my job isn’t. I made another of my closest friends at my NYC gig and she remains a confidante, travel advisor, and sounding board for all career-related decisions. But would I say my work is about friendship? No. Other than the fact that I write about it on this blog, of course. When it comes to my career, the jobs have always come first. The friendships followed.
Would I write for an editor I didn’t like? Absolutely. Have I? Of course. Friendship is not one of my pre-requisites to work with someone, not by a long shot. Getting to do what I love is the dream, working with someone I adore is a sweet bonus.
While it’s a treat to do business with pals, it can be prickly. I’ve seen more than one friendship end over prospective business ventures. When you invest time, money and passion into something and suddenly you’ve got an entirely different vision than your so-called partner, it can be hard to sever the professional ties and still salvage the relationship.
And plenty of friendships fall apart over promotions (or lack thereof). Office politics can be rough, and they don’t always leave much room for camaraderie. Not to mention the fact that until recently, companies generally discouraged fraternizing with coworkers.
I’m not sure who’s got the better philosophy: Us or the Croats. The two Croatian business owners seemed plenty happy, professionally and personally. But the possibility for fractured relationships looms large. Less so in my job-first, friendship-second career.
Are you a believer in mixing business with pleasure, or more about separating the personal and the professional? Got any stories of friends and work gone bad? Or better yet, gone good?