Parental Consent: Breaking the News of Your Venture to Your Parents : Under30CEO Parental Consent: Breaking the News of Your Venture to Your Parents : Under30CEO
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Parental Consent: Breaking the News of Your Venture to Your Parents

| July 13, 2012 | 17 Comments

It’s terrifying, starting a business on your own. And one of the most frightening things about it is getting your parents’ approval. Let’s face it: If you have a good relationship with your parents, then their emotional backing is probably one of your top priorities. No two cases are exactly alike, but this is how I went about it.

In My Shoes

I was twenty-three. I was single. I had no family to support. If there was ever a time to do something bold, this was it. Worst-case scenario, my business would fail. So I’d get another job or start something else. I was confident this was the time to make my move, to make my side business my main business, to become an entrepreneur. Convincing my parents of this was another matter, and even though I had the support of my closest friends, the knots in my stomach were severely impeding my appetite – not to mention my verbal communication skills – as I found myself at the weekend breakfast table of my dear parental units, trying to find the best way to broach the subject.

Never underestimate a mother’s intuition. All my squirming led her to ask if there was anything I wanted to talk about. I was still too nervous to speak, but I managed a nod. The woman’s a psychic phenomenon; she asked me if I was planning on quitting my job.

This was the ice breaker I needed to start a long conversation with my parents about the logistics of it all. I explained why I was planning to quit the very next day. I elaborated on why this was a good idea, how confident I was that I could make my infographic business work. My mother launched into a spectacular freak-out session, focusing on the horrible economic climate, the uncertainties of entrepreneurship, and how absurd it was to quit such a good job.

My father thought it was a good idea – just not yet. He felt I should stay at my day job longer, make more contacts, build up my existing client base, and then reassess things via a similar – and hopefully calmer – family conference a few months down the road.

The points my father made were valid, and my parents successfully talked me out of my imminent plans to quit. You might imagine their surprise when, just a few weeks later, I walked straight into my boss’s office and told him I was leaving.

I didn’t tell my parents right away; I gave it a week or two. As it turned out, luck was on my side and they were very supportive.

The Approach

Regardless of whether you’re starting your own business or need to talk to your parents about another big, scary change, there are certain things that will make it easier:

1.  If possible, talk to them in person. It’s probably going to be a lengthy discussion. Plus, you might find the physical presence of the people who raised you somewhat comforting.

2.  Lay it all out – every gory detail. I’ve learned from my mistakes – and there have been plenty – and every time I’ve told my father exactly what went wrong with my business, he’s helped me tweak things to make sure I don’t make the same mistake again.

3.  Be 100% honest. Parents want nothing but the best for their children, and if you come to them earnestly looking for help, you’ll likely find that they’ll be more than willing to do so.

The Difference is in the Details

Remember when I mentioned the gory details? I mean that. Provide as many details as possible.  Pretend they’re potential investors. In a weird way, you are looking to get your parents’ investment, in the form of emotional support. Be ready to discuss why you think you can make this business work. If you’re living on your own, you need to prove to them that you will continue to be able to support yourself. You might even have to go into the exact details of the income you plan to have versus the money you need to get by. In short, the more information you can present, the less likely the tendency toward parental panic.

Consent Denied

Sadly, not everyone’s parents are going to be supportive, so if you’ve got doubts regarding your own, prepare for a possible backlash. If you decide to launch your business on your own, the most important thing to be ready for is total independence. If your parents are paying for anything in your life, expect that to change if you move forward against their wishes. They might feel that if you’re so insistent upon being independent, you need to be entirely independent.

If your parents aren’t receptive to giving input or helping because they disapprove of your actions, there is definitely at least one other person in your life that you can turn to. Try to find a grandparent, a sibling, or a friend, perhaps someone who’s gone through a similar situation. Entrepreneurial mentorships exist, and many entrepreneurs are eager to share their experiences and help others out.

Taking charge of your own business is scary, but if you’re acting on as much information as possible, planning everything out, and taking a logical approach, with a little perseverance, it’s likely you can get your parents on board.

How did you parents handle it? Was it easy or were they concerned? Let us know in the comments.

Justin Beegel is the Founder and President of InfographicWorld, a data visualization company, specializing in the creation of visually stunning infographics to help companies communicate their message in a more impactful manner.


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Category: Startup Advice