Friends without benefits! Why it doesn’t help to discuss your idea with friends and family

22nd Feb 2015
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At that moment when you come up with some idea to start your venture, the first person you reach out to is either a friend or a family member. The reason is quite obvious, they are close to you and you want another outlook on this potential venture. If you decide to go ahead with it, you might find yourself in a dilemma about the role of friends and families. Especially if they are involved from the beginning. You may try to see them as advisors, promoters or even potential customers. But if proper boundaries are not established then you will end up wasting a significant amount of time doing things you are not supposed to do.

yourstory_Friends_without_benefits

I went through a similar situation when I started my first venture. I treated some of my friends as co-founders, potential customers or even advisors. Unfortunately, I was wrong on all counts.

The misconception

When you first pitch your idea to your friends or family members, mostly you will get these three responses -

  1. They will encourage you to execute it. In most cases, they will wish to join you onboard (in terms of execution, advice or investment).
  2. They will oppose you, pursue you to stick with your existing path (which can be a job or education) and if you are still convinced, they will tell you how ridiculous your thinking is.
  3. They will neither oppose you nor support you but will give you a cryptic response (which is an indirect way to say no).

In case of negative or neutral responses, sometimes you will get some valid reasons which are worth considering. But if you are simply following this advice because of the fear of failure or fear of hurting them then you are completely wrong. Because if you cannot convince your own family and friends then how are you going to convince investors or potential customers. Convincing your friends and family is the first step of effective pitching.

The real confusion occurs when they decide to support you. Very few will actually help you to execute and validate your idea but most will act as advisors. And this is where things can go wrong.

Most of the time they are trying to reflect themselves in you and your venture. Their advice may often include context which is related to a problem which they are facing and they assume that your venture is going to fix those. You might end up sharing an early prototype with them and the feedback which you will get will be a reflection of their own problem rather than what you are trying to do. Hence it is very important to know what you are doing and judge how relevant the feedback is. Otherwise, you will end up going off the track which will result in loss of crucial time.

Not your early adopters

Early adopters are a very crucial set of users who try your product very early. They are responsible for loyalty and most effective marketing technique - ‘word of mouth’ publicity. They not only give you really good feedback but are also willing to pay for the product which you are building (even if it is a buggy).

Believe me, your friends and families are not your early adopters. As I said earlier, most of the time they will expect you to build a product which they wish they could have built. You might even expect them to do word of mouth publicity for you which might make you complacent into not making sufficient efforts in marketing. But word of mouth publicity happens when you make efforts to market your product. Talk to strangers, get out of your room and reach potential customers via emails and meetings. Your potential early adopters are out there; not in your family get-togethers.

Emotions over logic

Most of the time, your friends and family won’t criticize because they don’t want to hurt you. They will simply end up agreeing with you on every possible step, even if they know that you are wrong and illogical. There is nothing more poisonous than this. This is the reason why reaching out to strangers is important. Because they don’t care about your emotions, they just want to make sure that their problem is fixed.

Sympathy

You might think what is the point of friends and family when all they do is put you in a spot? They play an important role which no one will ever play. They love you. Not for what you are building but for what you are. Entrepreneurship is a very difficult journey and your friends and family will always be that shoulder which you need to cry on or the hand you need to grab to get up. They will support you no matter what happens and that support can be got from anything -- finance, emotions or even more Facebook likes. Because, they want you to achieve the dream which you want to live.

How was your experience with friends and family? Did they play any crucial role in your venture? Look forward to your comments.

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