How friends and family can help or hinder when starting up

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The people closest to us are usually the ones we rely on the most, and also the ones who most often drive us crazy. When you begin your startup journey, not all your loved ones will react the same; some will step up, some may become worried for you, and others may be plain disappointing.

Here are just a few ways your friends and family can get behind you – or get in the way.

Parents often think everything you do is amazing

If you have the kind of parents who attribute all your failures to an excess of talent and good looks, they might not be the best people to bounce ideas off, God bless ‘em.

While it’s nice to have an ego-boost every now and then, aspiring leaders must develop a knack for finding those who will give them candid and insightful feedback – especially when they’re wrong. Try to discern who in your social circle will be both encouraging and honest with you.

Some people just like telling others what to do

Even well-intentioned people can’t help but see things in terms of what they would do, how they would handle the situation.

Not everyone knows the difference between support and advice, and a person can think they’re helping you, when really, they’re doing your head in. It’s important to set boundaries, and kindly but firmly remind your loved ones that unless you’ve asked for their advice, it would be more helpful if they could just let you be. On the other hand, make sure you’re not shutting out all criticism; chronic naysaying is unhelpful, but so are echo-chambers.

They might be scared of entrepreneurship

Most people are risk-averse; their fear of loss is greater than their hope for gain. Chances are, this includes at least one of your friends or family, and to them, risking a ton of time and money on a business that may or may not take off will look like utter madness. This will usually be the person who tells you “It’s too risky” or “You’re never going to make a living out of this” or “Why can’t you get a normal job?”

Constructive feedback is important, but if you get the feeling that someone simply doesn’t like what you do, it might be a good idea to simply not talk about work with them.

Backing you (financially or otherwise)

Plenty of successful ventures have been financed by friends and family members, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. Entangling money with personal relationships can be an absolute minefield if you don’t assess the situation carefully.

They become concerned for you

Long hours, loads of stress, and potentially modest take-home pay is part-and-parcel of being an entrepreneur. And for the people who care about you, it can be a hard thing to watch you go through; not everyone understands the sacrifice that building your own business requires.

You need to be careful about this one. If it’s well-intentioned but undue concern, accept it with a smile and change the topic. But if someone whose judgement you trust seems genuinely worried for your wellbeing, pay attention; overworking is a real danger for business owners, so make sure you’re taking steps to look after yourself.

They can keep you on-track

Having a gym buddy makes a person twice as likely to lose weight. However confident we get, most of us still care what our dearest and nearest think of us, and we don’t want to let them down, even on those days when we feel like letting ourselves down.

Reaching out to someone you trust and asking them for a regular coffee over which you can both talk shop won’t just alleviate some of the entrepreneurial isolation you may be feeling, it will encourage you to stick to your plans.


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