SMOB – Friends and family

Back in the days when I attended the fabulous Start Your Own Business course by Dublin Enterprise Board, we talked about the role of family and friends for an SME owner.

My first reaction was, ‘what? I don’t need help from them, I don’t want to bother them or rely on them. I will do everything myself and I will be FINE!’

I was naïve.

Let’s get this out of the way. You ARE going to bother them, period.

Free staff

I once heard someone said ‘you need to get 20 hours free work from your family when you first start your business’. It sounds shocking but guess what, I actually have to agree with this person. I lost count of the number of hours I have to ask Cat Man to help me with this and that. Cat Man designed my logo, my website, my flyers, my business card; Cat Man greets my customer when they dropped by my house to pick up key or drop off key; Cat Man answers the phone when I am in the bathroom; Cat Man cooks dinner when I am out and about coming home late; Cat Man helps at the Expo if I am doing one; Cat Man babysits when I am out meeting a customer; the list goes on and on.

Even though you might not ask them a direct question – ‘can you do this and that for me please…?’ You are still bothering them indirectly, that takes us to…

Antisocial behaviour

As we have talked about earlier in the series, being self employed usually involved long working hours, and even when you are not actually doing something, you are thinking about it, at least during the startup process. Trust me, making some funny faces during one of these quiet brainstorming session in the sitting room while the rest of your family are chatting away in front of the TV is bothering them. Even though it’s not your fault and you don’t do it intentionally. I lost track of how many times I wasn’t listening to Cat Man when he was telling me something. I got distracted because some new ideas just come into my head about the new marketing campaign, etc. And of course working 7 days a week IS going to affect your family life. You will be missing a lot of the family gathering or being late. I have cancelled on my friends so many times I suspect some of them stop inviting me altogether…

Having understanding family goes a long way for someone who is just starting out. I have seen quite a few SMEs around fell apart the moment the family starts to get upset. Especially if everyone is already on a very short fuse with you stretching the household financially to accommodate your adventure. If your family is not happy with you, it will also put tremendous amount of stress to yourself on top of the stress of starting up.

Make sure to talk to your immediate family thoroughly before starting your business. Make sure they understand and they are ok that you will be ‘absent’ for a while and you will be under a lot of stress. Make sure they can put up with you!

Home office hour

The other thing is, if you are just starting out, you might be working from home. Sometimes it could be difficult to get your family to respect your ‘office hour’ while all they see is you staring at the computer screen all day. Make sure to talk to them to get them understand and respect your office hour. You might need to close yourself in the office or bedroom so that they ‘get’ you are working. You might have to get out of the house and go to a pub or café in order to get some undisturbed office hours. There are also other resources for getting low-cost office space in Dublin. I will touch on that subject matter in the coming weeks.


If you are quitting your current job to start your own business, the obvious thing is you need to talk to your spouse about the new financial situation. I have once seen a lady who closed down her business after 2 months because her partner expected her to make the same contribution to the household as before and she just couldn’t manage.


So what’s the solution to all of these then? The answer is, talk to your family! I can’t emphasize this enough, you REALLY need to get everyone on board before you even start. If you have grown children, they will probably be drafted into ‘free staff’ at one point or the other. Trust me, starting your own business is a collective family effort, don’t underestimate how much it will affect your family life.

Coming up next: In the next post, I will address another common start-up question – when should I quit my job? Follow my blog so you don’t miss it when it goes up – “Full time vs part time?”

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