Monday May 20th will be the very first day that I work for myself, full-time, on my start-up. There are plenty of variables to worry about when starting a new business but what I was most worried about was telling my father that I was going to quit my “good” job. The prospect of generating traction didn’t terrify me, and the innovative product was almost complete, but I was dreading the “talk” I had to have with my dad.
It doesn’t seem crazy to me
My parents live in Florida (of course) and I was holding the phone to my ear waiting for my dad to come on the line from their house. When he came on the line I just blurted it out…
“Dad I’ve decided to work on my own business full time.”
I let it hang on the wire, waiting for the blistering response about how I was letting my family down, and exposing my kids to unnecessary risks. I had imagined how he would lecture me on how hard he and my mom worked so that I (and my three little sisters) could get a college education, and how I had no right to throw it all away on some silly dream about starting my own business. And, about how my wife deserved a husband who would make good adult (not risky) choices about my career.
I had imagined how he would remind me about my long days at a full-time job and long nights spent in class to earn an MBA from a top school. I knew how his mind worked, he raised me after all and I had been on the receiving end of such lectures many times before.
A rough road
My dad had been in business for himself once before. He and my mom opened a coffee shop on main street in the little town they lived in before moving to Florida. It was a lot of work, and they barely made any money. On many days my dad would open the store up at 4am and work the morning rush, then come back in the evening to reconcile the cash register and close the store at midnight.
No matter how hard he worked, that coffee shop was never going to generate much profit without major changes in the business model. Though I doubted he would bring up his own failures, I knew that it would influence how he approached the conversation with me.
I’ve failed before
This isn’t my first rodeo either. I’ve attempted to do a software start up before (more than once) and failed. They were not particularly private failures either. I always get so excited about my ideas that I broadcast them to everyone. I imagined that my prior failures would play into my conversation with my dad also. It would be a dose of “tough love” to bring me back to reality.
The father speaks
“Well I wish you the best of luck. I’m sure you’ll do great.”
I was stunned. I’d been so prepared to launch into a defense of my current project and my reasons for focusing on it full-time that I had never considered he might be supportive. We went on to have a great talk, about the start-up some but mostly about my kids and my sisters.
After talking to my dad I wondered how I could have gauged his reaction so inaccurately. I think it comes down to my own fears in the end. I believe I was projecting my own fears onto him, and trying to talk myself out of it without having to take ownership of the fears.
Does anyone else have any experience with this? What were the reactions when you told your parents or spouses or whoever is important to you that you were going to quit your job and take gigantic risks?