Should entrepreneurs take business advice from family?


Your dad warns you to be strict with your employees about work timings. Mom says you shouldn’t consider outside funding, but ask an uncle for financial help. Your wife wants you to hire a particular interior decorator to do up your office space. Your cousin insists you must use social media for your marketing campaign.

Launched a startup? Every one of your close and distant relatives is ready with advice that spans the range from genuine concern to downright interference.

Right from the décor of your office to the number of staff you should have to the amount of risk that you ought to take, you find yourself flooded with advice. And the fact that it comes from well-meaning people who are close to you makes it even more difficult to ignore. So, should you take business advice from family? The answer is not an easy one and will often vary according to the situation, the type of advice you get and the place it’s coming from.

When to take business advice from family

As an entrepreneur consumed by an idea, you see no wrong in the product or service you’re about to launch. But as a person who’s not as passionately involved, a family member can give a viewpoint that is more objective. In situations when you want an unbiased, outsider opinion, it helps to ask family for advice.

If you are an impulsive kind of person who takes decisions without giving the matter enough thought, discussing it with a family member can draw your attention to a crucial point you ignored. If a loved one is giving you advice, listen carefully to the gist of what is being conveyed and you will avoid the pitfalls that arise because of your blind spots.

If your mom or wife expresses her reservations about something, pay close attention. It could be nothing, but it may also be something that comes from the intuition that many women seem to possess. Of course, you need to combine this with your own objective analysis to get the best results because, as a recent study from BI Norwegian Business School reports, people who combine analysis with intuition are the ones who make the best decisions when faced by crisis. So, until you develop your own intuitive powers, why not borrow some from your family?

When to ignore business advice from family

But there can be situations when taking your family’s advice may not be the best thing. If you know a piece of advice is motivated by a vested interest, for example, it is best to ignore it. Ditto for advice that is a result of an intense emotional attachment where a dear one cannot bear to see you struggle even though that is what you need to do to take your business forward.

If your family adopts an approach that is too critical, dealing with this disapproval can be very taxing during the initial stages when you are yet to find your feet. Besides, it also drains you of the drive to take the challenges of entrepreneurship head on. At such times, it is best to steel your mind to ignore the negative message conveyed.

Being strict may have worked for your dad because he served in the armed forces; it may not work well if you run an art business that employs the creative types. Mom worries about external funding because she’s from the older generation that shunned credit but things are different today. In other words, you need to know where a particular piece of advice is coming from before you decide to use it.

When you turn entrepreneur, you suddenly find yourself having to take decisions every step of the way. If you find that discussing things with your family helps you gain perspective, go for it. After all, aren’t they the ones who – without any vested interest – want to see you prosper? But do not rely only on advice from your family; make sure you get the opinion of people familiar with your domain before you make important decisions.


About the guest author

Anusuya Suresh is Asst. Professor with a college in Bangalore. She is also a youth counsellor and volunteer with a non-profit called DISHA that conducts self-improvement workshops for college students in Bangalore. Besides those roles, she is also an entrepreneurial spouse with ample insight into the mental makeup of an entrepreneur. 


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