She's never worried about ruthless competition, and she certainly didn't think twice about telling friends she was developing a terrific PR firm. But while menacing rivals stayed in the shadows, friendships took a strange turn for Marni Salup, owner of Salup Public Relations Ltd. in New York City, a firm serving the lifestyle arena. And in the three years since founding her public relations company, she's learned more than she thought she would about personal relations. Longtime friends who doled out bad advice, discouraging her from taking risks because, says Salup, "they were projecting their personal issues" into the matter, come to mind. "It's not so much that friendships have terminated, but they've definitely changed," says Salup, 28. "I've really learned who I can trust and look to for insight."
If friends start trying to dash your hopes with cruel sneers, hold their own low self-esteem accountable. According to O'Connor, people who resent your business success might try to get even with you or, as in Salup's case, block you from being successful. Others who are more indirect about their resentment might abandon your friendship altogether.
"Some [people] think you're flat-out nuts because they can't comprehend the idea of charting your own course," says Roth of the mixed response he's gotten from friends. Unfortunately, his long hours don't give him time to confront the issue. "Sometimes I see my family [who relocated to Atlanta in May]," he says, "but I haven't really seen friends outside of work since November."
Curiously, family members have warmed up to Michael Reed, despite his round-the-clock dedication to WebSite.ws. "They've come out of the woodwork and become more amiable now that things have been taken to another level with our business," he says. Just familial concern? Perhaps-but not likely.
Employees Who Want More Money
Success spawns lots of interesting occurrences. After signaling WebSite.ws' success by moving to a bigger location, Ezeir and Reed were shocked by how many employees asked for raises. "I can count on half of one hand how many people have not asked for a raise," says Reed. Reports of fake bills from unknown vendors, increased charges from regular vendors, invoices from prospects charging for the time it takes them to read WebSite.ws pitches, and outlandish rent are all real-life "success stories" enjoyed by the duo.
And don't forget the investors who wouldn't give the ".ws" concept the time of day, leaving Ezeir and Reed no option but to fund the company themselves. "Now everyone's trying to congratulate us and get in on it because they see what we've done," says Ezeir.
As for those needy employees, some raises were given, but "just because" bonuses weren't. "It's not just because the company's doing well that we're suddenly going to give raises regardless of whether [employees] deserve it or not," says Reed. And so far, the nonraises, plus a photograph accompanying the Union-Tribune article of each founder standing beside his Ferrari, haven't sparked ill will or accusations of greed.
The Benefits of Being Successful
So, is taking flak from industry peers, losing friends and putting your health at risk with stress and no sleep worth it? "This has been tougher than I ever imagined," admits Roth, who keeps a sleeping bag at the office and showers at a fitness club. "Running a business is pretty stressful . . . but if it were easy, there'd be a [huge] number of us out there."
Ezeir and Reed don't want it any other way either-but they're glad they started their business when they were footloose and fancy-free. Says Ezeir, "I enjoy the success because I know what it's going to give me: the ability to do what I truly love, which is walk into a classroom and teach kids about entrepreneurship without worrying about paying the bills or if my parking meter's going to run out."
With new boundaries between friendship and work, Marni Salup, who has ambitiously grown Salup Public Relations from one client and a three-month contract to 15 clients, has accepted obstacles as part of the job. She envisions, at times, moving to an island and opening a windsurfing shop, but realizes she'd wind up either back in New York or doing PR on the island. You see, it's just in their blood, and a billion tense moments can't change that. Maybe to ease those pangs of success, you should do what Salup wishes she'd done earlier: "I would've started practicing yoga."