I’ve been blessed to have owned or worked with a variety of businesses, big and small. No matter how different a business is on the surface, all entrepreneurs can benefit greatly from the support from family and friends.
Unconditional support from family, especially spouses and children, is a start-up requirement seldom mentioned in text books. But let me assure you: it’s frightfully important and without it, the already-difficult journey of small business development becomes even more so.
When I was younger, my parents taught me that financial success was a side effect of doing something you were truly passionate about. Passion alone won’t guarantee success, but life is tough enough without hating what you do for a living. They were so right. When I first told my parents that, in spite of having graduated within the top of my class in high school, I was forgoing university to build a small business, their first question was: “How can we help?”
When I began renovating my first location, friends chipped in by plastering, painting and moving equipment. When I had to sell my car to keep the cash flowing in that first year, my parents lent me their vehicle so that I could attend meetings and run errands. (Not great for my ego, but a necessary survival mechanism). When I needed someone to cover the shop while I attended those meetings – prior to hiring my first employee – one of my brothers or my Dad would watch the shop for me.
All of that physical support in the early years really did help, but it was overshadowed by the emotional support and empathy I received during that time, and since.
You see: what was worse than needing a hand moving equipment or covering a shift was missing family get-togethers and time spent with friends. Spring break didn’t apply to me. Neither did most weekends for that matter, so I was absent from the circle of family and friends on whom I most relied.
Furthermore, when we did finally get together, I was often exhausted and stressed. Conversations at the odd Sunday family dinner were weighed down by my own self doubt as to how payroll would be met the following week and when I’d hit the glorious target of cash flow break even. Those were the days when the support of family and friends meant the most.
Later on, I was blessed to meet and marry another entrepreneur who worked her own share of long hours on her startup. She understood the sacrifices necessary to do something extraordinary in a business. Without her support, I could not reach for the remarkable.
My kids grew up with me as an entrepreneur so, on one hand, they don’t know any different. But that’s not quite true. As I continue to travel the world for my business, they notice each and every playoff game, recital, birthday and holiday that I miss. Luckily, I can keep these to a minimum in my current roles, but I still need them to look me in the eye and show me they understand the purpose behind my work.
Behind every great business is a support system of family and friends. If you’re starting business, build that network strong and communicate in advance the trade-offs that always come with the responsibilities of your own business. If you already have a business, thank those who have held you up when you are down and contributed in ways that will never show up directly on your income statement.
The assets that you have on your balance sheet can be valued and replaced. The assets you have in your friends and family are one of a kind and deeply committed to you. Don’t take them for granted.
Chris Griffiths is the Toronto-based director of fine tune consulting, a boutique management consulting practice. Over the past 20 years, he has started or acquired and exited seven businesses.