There is one very difficult step every young entrepreneur will take in the process of starting a business. It could lead to outrageous amounts of stress; it could lead to a complete reorganization of your strategy; in fact, it could derail the entire thing. When pursuing your dreams, I advise anyone who has a strong vision to power through any roadblocks… well, this could very well be your first. What is it?
Having the “I’m starting a business” conversation with your parents.
I’ll pause while you shudder…
All parents are different, so I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I know many young entrepreneurs know exactly the conversation (or at least the implications of the conversation) that I’m talking about. After your folks helped put you through undergrad then business school, and helped you pay for crap, and gave you money for books which was inevitably spent on beer (“I swear Dad, the damn thing costs $300!”) you sit them down and tell them you’re gambling it all on a fanatical business venture.
Granted, I think every graduate has a business idea at least once. Especially in this job market, after playing the resume and interview game every young, disgruntled student goes, “Screw it, I’m starting my own business!” (Note: the chances of this rise 10-fold after watching a Hugh Hefner documentary. Seriously, who doesn’t want to be that guy?) But very few people go through with it.
This doesn’t just pertain to recent grads either. I know people several years older than I who have had this conversation with parents. Sure, the older, wiser and more financially stable you get the easier this goes, but the conversation still takes place. I recently had a conversation with a man who was in his mid-30s who had a great business idea and told me that he was pitching some potential investors the following week. When I asked him how he felt about it he replied, “It will be a breeze after pitching my parents on the idea last weekend!”
The parent talk, however, can be the most significant reality check you have. Now, in my experience, I did not have to ask my parents for money. As a consultant, I need less upfront capital than a lemonade stand. But if you will be asking for money, work on your pitch just as you would a high-level venture capitalist. They will take even more stock in your idea, because with parents it isn’t just a financial investment; it’s a personal and emotional investment.
If you aren’t asking for money (and in reality, I would only recommend doing so as a last resort), then you will likely hear from the greatest devil’s advocate you can get, especially if one or both of your parents is a business person. But if they are not business people, then be careful, because you may receive false encouragement to pursue your line of kitten Christmas sweaters. Or at the very least, you will receive a brain-numbing amount of questions.
Let me tell you my experience. It did not at all happen like I planned, though like I said, the risk/reward of a one-person consulting company does not merit tons of concern from the parentals.
Now, my parents are very encouraging, and I know they would support me in just about anything. However, my father is a financial advisor – which means fiscally minded, structured, planned, and well aware of the business world as a whole. So boy was I prepared for the devil’s advocacy.
I, not being structured and planned (ask anyone), took a “ready, fire, aim” approach to the business model. Well done, Matt. I had a business plan, a mission, etc. I also had just completed my website, and started up this blog. My problem was that I had too many ideas about the website and the creative aspect which I had to get out first. I wanted to get the “aim” part taken care of before I told my parents the idea, but apparently when you “fire” and it’s live online, people find it quickly. Once again Matt, probably should have seen that one coming…
So before I had all the details ironed out, I visited home. I didn’t even have the Michael Bublé song I was singing in the car out of my head before my mother was saying, “So tell me about your website and this business idea!”
That’s how I broke it to the parents.
That weekend my entire family was coming to visit. Oh great, not only is the “aim” portion of the business not ready, the entire family is going to be pitched this at once! The weekend consisted of everyone – and I mean everyone – in my family taking a look at the site, proofreading and critiquing. Between my parents, my brother who is close to my age, my grandmother who was a teacher, my granddad who was a judge, and a couple uncles who are business men, I’d say I had my bases covered.
Let me tell you, you don’t develop a 30-second pitch much quicker than when you have to do it on the fly in front of that crowd.
I got lucky in that “marketing consultant” is an easy sell, and everyone was more curious and intrigued than concerned. I also got some great feedback for the site, and it should be grammatically impeccable now.
Finally, my immediate family went out to dinner, and the subject came up. My dad said, “I have some questions about your business venture.”
Ok, here it comes… deep breath… another sip of wine… hit me.
I wish I could give you a great dialogue here; some kind of quid pro quo between the businessman and myself. But the line of questioning was very simple. He asked me about all the things I hadn’t worked out yet. He asked me how I was going to be paid, what would I charge and why, and what the legal ramifications were. All encouraging and valid questions, only I wish I had more of an answer than “yeah, still working on that…”
Long story short, he told me that I needed a mentor. This is something I knew in the back of my head, I had just not reached out yet. But he was right. Every successful person has a mentor. Every young entrepreneur has someone showing him the ropes. No one ever ever ever does it completely on his own. At first, I wasn’t sure what kind of concerns my father would have, or what advice he would give me, although – and it pains me to say it – he is usually right. Therefore I was going to listen. What transpired was great advice and nothing but support from both my folks.
So kids, talk to your parents. The talk is inevitable, though I would advise you to be more prepared then I was. Pitch them as you would pitch a professional. You never know what could happen, but if you leap this hurtle you are well on your way.
At the very least, you have a few more subscribers to your blog.