How to Build Support for Starting Your Business Among Your Family and Friends
Having people backing you who believe in what you are doing can make a crucial difference in your overall chances for success.
If you are single and have no one depending on you, this is the easiest situation to be in when starting a business. You may or may not have your patents and friends support, but at least no one else will be financially impacted by your decision.
Things get significantly more difficult when that is not the case. If you have a spouse, they will be part of your financial decision, even if they aren’t part of the business. Having children makes the situation even more complex, because obviously you have to weigh the risks of impacting their welfare as well.
While it is nice to have friends behind you, most serious entrepreneurs will push forward even if most of their friends think they are crazy.
What happens if some or all of these people are telling you not to start the business you want to start? Is there a way to win them over, or is there a way to push forward even if they are against it? Usually, the answer to both questions is yes.
The first question to ask yourself is which people in your life do you consider it important to get support from? There is no point in trying to win over the support of people you don’t really care about convincing, or having be behind your efforts.
Convincing Your Spouse
Usually, the most reluctant person to convince is a spouse. This is because they will usually be the one most impacted by the decision, in many ways. For them it might mean feeling stressed over the financial risk, having to budget more, getting to spend less time with the person starting up or any combination of these worries and others.
The best way to convince a spouse that this is a good idea is to show them that there is a specific plan for the business, and that it isn’t as risky or as overwhelming as it might seem. Usually this just means showing them the business plan. Show them how much money is on the line, and why you think there is a very good chance for the business to be successful.
Show them that you have done the research and ground work necessary to take most of the risk out of the venture. You might also want to talk about back up plans, and other options and milestones that you will either meet or work on considering a different course of action. The idea is to get them comfortable with the plan, and understanding it, so it doesn’t seem like a big unknown risk.
You may also want to solicit their advice and feedback. If they feel they have some part in it, they will be more likely to want to see it succeed than if it seems like something that is just going to pull the other person away.
You can use the same strategy to a lesser degree to demonstrate to anyone else who you would like support from that this isn’t just some crazy scheme, but a well thought out and thoroughly researched plan to accomplish a specific goal.
You don’t want to let other people’s negative impressions of your ambitions turn you off doing what you want to accomplish, so there isn’t much point in spending time explaining yourself to people in general who will tell you all kinds of horror stories about people they’ve known who lost everything in small businesses. At the same time, anyone you run into who may know someone in the business you are entering or have specific experience that can be helpful is worth listening to just for an outside opinion.
Which Advice to Heed and Which to Ignore
For example, if you are starting a dry cleaning business, and some friends tell you it won’t work, but they all have day jobs in unrelated industries, it isn’t worth giving much thought to their comments. If you run into someone who owned a dry cleaning business for ten years, however, and that person tells you that what you are trying to do won’t work, it will certainly be worth listening to them.
You may not agree in the end, but at least they have some credibility, and even if you don’t agree with their ultimate opinion, you may be able to get lots of other useful inside information from them, if you take the time to listen.
If you run into a situation where you have made your best effort to win the support of someone important to you, and you still are unable to do it, then you have to decide what to do next.
One option is to agree with them to disagree, and then set a mutually agreeable way to resolve the situation. For example, suppose no matter how many plans you show them, your spouse will simply not agree that the business is a good idea. You could suggest that you will only invest so much, and only work on it for so long, and then if it isn’t working out, you will move on to something else.
That way, even if they don’t agree, they know there is an end point where either they are proven wrong because it is working, or they are right and you agree to give up and do something else. This way they aren’t worried that the venture will eventually consume the entire worth of the family, or go on so long that eventually there is no way out.
Another option is to get them to agree that if some third party says it is going to be OK, they will support you, and if not they won’t. Obviously this only is fair if the third party is someone neutral, and someone actually capable of listening to the plan and making an educated assessment of the likelihood of success. This is sort of like deciding to go to arbitration.
A third option is to scale back or change the plan to something that is more acceptable. The smaller the project, the less business risk there will be, and the easier it will be to overcome any objections about financial ruin or overwhelming debt.
While there is no absolute requirement that you have the support of your family and friends when you go into business, it certainly makes the overall experience much more palatable and rewarding. If you have to spend mental energy and time everyday overcoming negativity on the home front, in addition to all the challenges of starting a business, it can often be too much. And sometimes, it is too much just at the point where if you had just gone a little further, you would have had a big breakthrough and things would have gotten a lot better.
It is always a good investment of time to build some support for yourself at home before embarking on a startup journey. The business will test you enough without having to fight the fight every night at home as well. If you haven’t done it yet, make sure you spend some time doing it now.