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How supportive is your family of your entrepreneurship?

By Andrew Neitlich

Family support is essential to every successful entrepreneur, or at least sure makes it easier.

I’m blessed that my wife likes and supports what I do, although from time to time she tells me that one of my ideas is stupid. I usually go forward with that idea anyway, and she usually is right about the idea having been stupid. We had a recent argument about something unrelated to business, and at the end she exclaimed, “By the way, your idea about a website devoted to [subject matter of new website] is stupid. It won’t work.” I will go forward with the idea anyway, but you can see how this kind of occasional conflict is different than what spouses who are gainfully employed tend to have. Plus, given her track record, my confidence is shaken on this idea, and that is a bit depressing.

And, at times, when money gets tight because I’m investing in new ideas while waiting for other ideas to pan out, there can be tension. But it is appropriate, as my first responsibility is to providing for the family.

Parents, siblings, spouses — all of them have something to say when we start up a venture. Sometimes they can be supportive, and sometimes they can be negative. Sometimes they can really bring you down — despite having no knowledge about your market or chances of success.

There is a metaphor about the worst case: There is a type of crab that fishermen can stack on top of each other, without rope, and even right near the water’s edge. That’s because if one crab tries to leave the pile, the other crabs pull it back in. So no crab in the pile can ever reach freedom. So if you have a family not accustomed to entrepreneurship, sometimes they might act like these crabs and try to pull you back in to their world.

It takes courage and conviction to know when to move forward and when to cave.

Is your family supportive? How do you handle cases when they are not?

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  • WebDevGuy

    Terrific post. I like the crab story but the best part is to recognize the bigger picture, that we are responsible for supporting our family. (Period intended)

  • WebDevGuy

    Where did you get the crab story?

  • http://aplosmedia.com/ Eric.Coleman

    Im pretty young, but my girl supports me.. It’s been rough at times and she still sticks around and supports me.

  • warjockey

    I live with my parents and still in College. Well lets just say that I’m busy to my neck and all they do is critisize me about wasting my life on the computer while I’m working on like my last semester’s projects which they’re due soon.

    I realize that to be an entrepreneur I would have to move out.

  • fishball

    About your crab metaphor, in our country we call it “Crab Mentality”. They say it’s cultural but anyhow Crab Mentality means you just seems not to be happy for someone else’s success.

  • ngi112

    I didn’t know that about crabs… nice entry

  • Anonymously

    Crab mentality describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither can you.” The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs in which one tries to escape over the side, but is relentlessly pulled down by the others in the pot.”

    Is mentality diplayed by the crabs is different then trust needed to leave the cave?

  • pdxi

    After starting out on consulting, full time, I remember my Mom saying this:

    “Um, I think maybe you should get a real job.”

    That was quite some time ago. Now, she proudly tells her friends that I’m self employed as a web development consultant.

    All you need to do is show everyone that you’re serious and determined.

  • Doug.George

    Great post. I am still working my day job while having been a web entrepreneur for a solid year now. My wife has not been as supportive as I would have liked. And while I’ve been making considerable money now, she thinks it is not worth all the time I have had to invest. She would rather I come home from work and *not* have to answer emails, work on the website and do the accounting. I’m sure many of you can relate. I agree that it takes a lot of work, but I am driven to succeed and have learned a great deal along the way. As each month passes, I get better and better and hope that some day I will be able to “cut the cord” and leave my day job entirely. But for now I must stay in order to provide for my family.

  • http://dianev.com DianeV

    I look at this scenario in much the same way as that of an artist who has to deal with family and friends. Those who want, who must have at all costs, what they call a normal “secure” life to the exclusion of all else are ready to point out (and emphasize) the risks at any given moment. It takes a certain amount of guts to go forward, especially in the face of this kind of pressure. Which, I will point out, doesn’t mean that an idea is more, how you say, *worthy* than another.

    On the other hand, and I was thinking about this the other day, the people I know who have made it — I mean, *really* made it — mostly seem to be artists. And perhaps Web people are getting up there, too.

    So there ya go.

    I think it has a lot to do with what kind of person you are. Yes, one needs and income. And yes, it takes guts to pursue a different kind of life. But some people simply have different desires than others. They may not be cut out for the “secure” life, where “security” means sacrificing your life to work for someone else pursuing someone else’s vision. And, ya know, how safe is it if someone else can choose not to pay you very much or can fire you? Or if you have to buy that security at the cost of killing your spirit?

    One makes one’s own security.

  • http://www.dotcomwebdev.com chris ward

    If you want something bad enough, never let anyone drag you down.

  • http://www.thewebmonsters.com webmonster

    It seems like it is a double-edged sword in my life trying to balance work and family. For example, my wife LOVES any extra money I can bring into her life when working on some web development jobs on the side (outside of my normal 9-5 job), BUT at the same time she gets tired of me spending so much time in front of the computer working. We have 3 small children ages 5, 3 and 4 months and she spends her days running a daycare out of our home. By the end of the day when I get home from work she is absolutely exhausted from watching kids all day and needs a break. She does not want me to sit in front of the computer and work another 3-4 hours.

    It is very hard to balance this life-style right now but I don’t think I have much choice. The extra money has really been nice so I can’t see how I can give that up. I just wish there were more hours in the day for me to divide my time.

    I am not the type of person that constantly needs a pat on the back or somebody saying “you are doing a great job” but once in a while getting some positive comments like that from your family or friends can go a very long way. I don’t NEED to hear it but I really do like to hear it once in a while.

  • Anonymous

    I mean, *really* made it—mostly seem to be artists.

    You are kidding right?

    They may not be cut out for the “secure” life, where “security” means sacrificing your life to work for someone else pursuing someone else’s vision.

    I’m guessing that you are not the provider for a family, which redefines sacrificing your life…

  • http://dianev.com DianeV

    Thanks. But you would be guessing wrong.

    First of all, if you want to believe that *no* artists ever make it, that’s fine. I would bid everyone else to look at the world of entertainment. Did anyone ever make it? Yes. Was it easy? I doubt it. Was it risky? Undoubtedly.

    As to me, I started my web career years ago from my (admittedly large) dining room table. Now it could support us easily. Did I work hard at it? You bet.

    Look, I’m not advocating throwing away all responsibility to go dancing through fields of flowers with not a care in the world. There [i]has[/i] to be income. If you want to pursue a different path, then you have to do all those things that employers do: plan, get up to speed on whatever you’re producing, market, get customers/gigs/whatever, deliver product/service, repeat ad-infinitum to ensure that there is income. That’s quite a bit more than helping an employer to deliver product/service.

    I’m not the only one to do this. Look at some of the larger Web companies. Or even some of the larger SEO companies. Or, again, those artists (by which I mean actors, musicians, writers, fine artists, etc.); they had to do *something* to get there. I’ve only ever heard a few stories of someone being “discovered” by the right person and then being propelled to fame (and, even then, the person had to be able to deliver the goods). It takes dedication, intention and hard work.

    I’m not asking that you believe me. If you don’t want to, that’s fine.

    I’m not even saying it’s easy. It just may be easier because you may be doing something you like more than … something else.

    All I’m saying is that it can be done — because it *has* been done.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not asking that you believe me. If you don’t want to, that’s fine.

    I do believe you… but claims based on “mostly seem to be” are not proofs of concept.

    Thanks. But you would be guessing wrong.

    For clearity, you are says that you are the provider for a family. Correct?

  • http://dianev.com DianeV

    No, I am not the sole provider, and I don’t believe I said that. What I’m saying is that I’ve taken my vision and made it work. We could live on my income nicely. That we don’t have to doesn’t negate that, does it?

    They’re not my “claims” — a word which implies a non-fact; they’re observations. Really, have you never seen anyone do well who provided for a family but chose to pursue an income outside of the usual methods of employment (e.g., getting a job)?

    I have. I’ve seen people start companies and make it. I’ve seen artists go after their dreams and make it. It takes a lot of intention and dedication — and, more to the point of this thread (where the writer *is* making money from his web work), time. That is an issue, because doing anything takes time. Even if you take a second job, it takes time.

    There is always risk. Even with employers: you may get a bad employer; there may be other issues like income and advancement. I wouldn’t call that without risk; it’s a matter of how much risk one is willing to tolerate and when. However, the one thing that can pretty much ensure that your dreams will not happen is not going after them.

    Look, Anonymous, if you want to believe that, if you’re providing for a family, it’s an either-or choice, then more power to you. Yes, you are absolutely right. Feel better now?

  • http://www.vitaleffect.com Gamermk

    That crab story was excellent. I know I’ve felt like the trapped crab at times during my life.

  • http://www.websitepublisher.net aspen

    When I was first starting out in this business and my wife was only my girlfriend (we shared an apartment) she would freak out every once in awhile and wonder what would happen if she got pregnant, would I get a real job? etc etc, she really did not have a lot of faith in the long term success of my business.

    Of course now I jokingly tease her about it. At least though I know that she didn’t marry me for my money, because I met her before I became wealthy.

  • http://dianev.com DianeV

    Good story, aspen, and good to “meet” you. You are, no doubt, the aspen mentioned in the ”
    Son, we live in a world that has Search Engines” post. Loved it. :)

  • believe in yourself

    It is very difficult when the only person you have to believe in is yourself and even some of the time the other people succeed in bringing you down. But you have to do your best to fend off the negativity of others.

    I live at home with my mum and her husband, he is a trades-men. So there is already the cave-man point of view there. My older brother is into computer and has always been. He is more into game development, modelling that sort of thing. He lacks direction and doesn’t face reality as often as he should. Which I believe is damaging to me being taken seriously. My father works with computers but he most of all lacks giving support. My partner is the most supportive, half of the time. The other half I am being yelled at and told to get a real job. The half where my partner does support me is great.

    With confidence issues and a lack of support many are said to fail. I say bugger it, I’m doing it, I will succeed and show them all that I can do it and do it well :)

    Support helps but all you need is to believe in yourself. Other people can hold you back and will if you let them. That said, keep smiling and loving those that don’t know any better.

  • Anonymous

    To the comment admin, why did you not publish my comments? Is there some rule that I’m not seeing? Thanks. (sort of…) ;)

  • http://www.redflystudios.com Cianuro

    This is a very important subject to touch on.
    Three years ago when I quit my full time job to do what I am doing now, my family and friends and ESPECIALLY my girlfriend thought I was on drugs. Where I come from, the internet is not something that a real living can be made from. Where I come from, making a living from the internet is only possible if you are in the porno industry.

    Now, three years later, more flexible working hours and a lot more money, my family and friends are barely coming around. It is one of the tougher factors in becoming an entrepreneur, and is something I have struggled with.

  • http://dianev.com DianeV

    > Now, three years later, more flexible working hours and a lot more money, my family and friends are barely coming around

    How do you mean? Are they avoiding you because you made it work? Or because they think you’re working in porn?

  • http://www.redflystudios.com Cianuro

    No, they are not avoiding me, they are now starting to see that it is my JOB now, not just a phase I was in. When I say “I’m going to work” now, they don’t say “Stop calling it work”.

    I am glad to see others got a lot of support, I’m just pointing out that I did not.

  • http://dianev.com DianeV

    Ah, okay. I understand.

    Well, I don’t know that everyone gets a lot of support, especially when you’re embarking on something new, different and “risky” — I think that, in itself makes you “different” too. Oh well!

    In my case, I suspect that my friends/family think it’s boring (wow, you sit in front of a computer all day … don’t you need a vacation?!). I also suspect that they haven’t a clue what I do. Ah well.

  • http://www.redflystudios.com Cianuro

    :) Great.
    And I do need a vacation.

    Its wonderful actually and I’m surprised they are not more jealous of what I have. I travelled from Feb to September this year and had the most amazing adventure. I left with $600 in my pocket. My business enabled that.

    And its true, most of my family still don’t know exactly what I do. I just would have liked a little more support in the beginning.

  • http://dianev.com DianeV

    That sounds great!

    I guess it’s too much to expect people to believe in a new venture that doesn’t promise security (money) in the form of a steady paycheck. After all, it’s really risky, and they’re probably not chasing their dreams for that reason.

    But, as you say, it has its compensations. :)

  • http://buy.Azam.biz 1Lit_com

    It shouldn’t be the case in the 21st century, but I have yet to find a supportive woman who understands my long-term business ambitions or has the hunger to succeed like I do. I despair at finding a woman who will support me in my business and not get moody because I can’t take her out shopping every day to buy her designer clothes and lipstick.

    Women claim that they believe in quality, but at the end of the day the majority I’ve met still want to be pampered and spoilt – and would rather varnish their nails than think up business ideas. How many women out there burn the midnight oil to build a world-class business?

  • http://www.redflystudios.com Cianuro

    ***Sits and waits for a drama to unfold***

  • Anonymous

    Women claim that they believe in quality, but at the end of the day the majority I’ve met still want to be pampered and spoilt—and would rather varnish their nails than think up business ideas. How many women out there burn the midnight oil to build a world-class business?

    Just “bat” for the other team. Gay-men are often very successful business-men.

  • http://www.maureenbarlow.com pixelgem

    Women claim that they believe in quality, but at the end of the day the majority I’ve met still want to be pampered and spoilt—and would rather varnish their nails than think up business ideas. How many women out there burn the midnight oil to build a world-class business?

    Well first, as a woman, I would say hold off on the generalizations. I’m a woman who works contantly, with a male partner who cannot understand that. Second, I gave up my day job about two years ago to pursue web development full-time. Unfortunately, my partner and just about everyone else in my life were completely unsupportive. I made the mistake of going into this business with very little financial reserve (actually, none), and have since gone back into working full-time at what everyone is calling “a real job.” I’ve been at my new job for two months now. I’m doing the web development on the side (again), but in a much smaller fashion. For me, the complete lack of support was one nail in the coffin, while the lack of financial reserve, as well as taking on very cheap clients, was the second.

    I’m revamping my plan to someday get back into doing this full-time for myself. The funny thing is, my father did the exact same thing I did: he started his own general contractor business. The first ten years were tough — we were close to being poor — but now he has more money than he can count. I wonder if my gender had anything to do with my lack of support from others. Or did I cave too easily? Hmmm…

  • http://dianev.com DianeV

    pixelgem, have you answered your own question? :)

  • http://www.maureenbarlow.com pixelgem

    I think the answer is ‘all of the above’!

  • paramaya

    I think it has a lot to do with what kind of person you are. Yes, one needs and income. And yes, it takes guts to pursue a different kind of life. But some people simply have different desires than others. They may not be cut out for the “secure” life, where “security” means sacrificing your life to work for someone else pursuing someone else’s vision. And, ya know, how safe is it if someone else can choose not to pay you very much or can fire you? Or if you have to buy that security at the cost of killing your spirit?

    I really appreciate this post because it sums up my philosophy pretty well.

    I’d like to tell my story to the “Anonymous” who took such issue with DianeV’s post. I am a never-married single mother (read “sole provider”), and I receive no child support. I have my own web consulting business and work from home. I am easily supporting my family through my business so I’m here to say that it can be done. I left a “secure” job with benefits over a year ago to pursue my own business. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but I didn’t like the alternative. I know plenty of married women who work full time and rarely see their children. While that may work for some, it wasn’t the kind of life that I envisioned for myself. For me, real sacrifice would be missing the class parties and field trips. It would be picking my daughter up from the After School Program at 6 instead of picking her up at 1:45 as I do now. She plays games on her computer while I work on mine. We don’t live in a big house or anything, but we are comfortable. So I guess I’m one of those kinds of people DianeV was talking about.

    As for the topic of this discussion, my mother is very supportive of me. On the other hand, my father always looks nervous when I talk about my work. He’s not in my day to day life and not very computer literate so he doesn’t have a great understanding of what I do. I suspect he’s afraid I’ll start asking him for money or something and that he thinks I’m too lazy to find a “real” job! I haven’t asked him for money in about 10 years. It is frustrating to talk about my successes in business and get anxious questions in response.

  • Russ

    What an awesome post. I just discovered it thanks to Tribune #430. So much of what you describe is what I’ve experienced in entrepreneurial ventures. Thankfully, I too have a wonderfully supportive wife, but the tensions and pressures are all there and you’ve captured them wonderfully. Thank you.

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