Pi of Life : Entrepreneurship and Family

Entrepreneurship isn’t usually a decision you take all by yourself, and certainly has an impact on more than you alone. And amongst those who influence it, and also share the joys and the pain of the journey, your family easily head the list. There are enough stories out there on the web about broken relationships, neglected children and one’s startup being the only focus when an entrepreneur sets down the path to scare away those who are starting out.

What’s the role of the family, and what has the experience of many who are still at the “struggle” stage of the journey been? We won’t take names, since these are very personal examples.

The Decision

Many in the family do not truly understand either your motivations, or the exact idea you’re passionate about. Some – especially in the extended family – do not even care – but will still have an opinion.

Not just you – everyone in the family faces the same peer pressure, marketing messages and needs the conviction that its worth it to forego not just the discretionary pleasures, but sometimes even what you might have considered the basics not that long ago.

Spouses today pretty much have a “why not” attitude and are supportive. It still takes more than one discussion to understand the impact of the decision on the family lifestyle and plans, your availability at home and the change in roles for everyone, and despite the nod of the head, this is something one discovers over time. But entrepreneurship has more acceptance, and at least at the point of the decision, “spouses today do get on board easier than earlier.”

Parents are a different ballgame.

“The fear of moving away from a branded job with a monthly paycheck still rules. The good thing is, though, that parents trust their ‘children’ more these days and understand that its a different world. They will probably never understand why you’re ready to give up on a big salary to pursue a 10% probability of success, but they don’t stop you from doing it. And its good that they raise these questions – it makes you think through everything.”

Impact, Guilt and other Beasts

“I get to spend more time with Papa!!”

“My father is always on the laptop! He works very hard.”

“<Insert name> is my dad’s own company!”

Many bootstrappers start off just being around at home much more. More flexibility, more babysitting and a deeper involvement with the issues and errands around the house are logical next steps. These delight the family to start with, and become a major sore point “as you get busier and are around, but never available for any help, or even a conversation.”

The family must share the vision, and also live, through you, their dreams and pride. They have no equity, but do keep acknowledging their skin in your game, and share the sense of ownership with the them. “They like the fact that you’re your own boss.”

Then there’s the guilt you carry – the guilt of ‘not being there’, of ‘missing vacations’ and more.

While these sacrifices are important for your dream run, family still needs to be sold the vision (and can’t be taken for granted).

What are your thoughts?