I recently had dinner with a group of six entrepreneur friends. During our meal the conversation took a familiar turn: How can we small business owners help our non- entrepreneur friends and family members understand our professional world without sounding like a bunch of whiners?
After a lively discussion that included men and women of differing professions, here are the six salient wishes that emerged from our chat (NOTE: I was given permission to include the comments, genders, ages and professions):
1. I wish my spouse and family understood that my business requires frequent daily attention, and that I am doing all I can to prioritize our family.
"It can't be easy being married to a busy entrepreneur, and I do try hard to understand her side of things. My wife works part time at a professional office, and we both work in the home as parents and partners. I run a busy private medical practice and most days it feels as if my work is never done. Even when we are on vacation, I make it a point to check email at least once a day, and will likely need to catch up on paperwork. If a patient is in crisis and another colleague cannot step in, I may have to make or take a call. On vacation, I schedule this when she is at the spa, or taking a nap. During our every day life, I try hard not to let my small business ownership responsibilities spill into our family time.
However, it is discouraging that in spite of my best efforts, I see her eyes rolling, or the frustrated glances, or the under the breath comments. I would like to trade places with her for one day so that she could better understand all that I juggle and I could better understand her frustration. I know she is busy too, and I definitely believe in being a present husband and father, but a small business also requires my time and attention daily." ~ Male, 53, Psychiatrist
2. I wish my NON-entrepreneur friends would offer their support in sharing about my business, my products, or my events with others without me having to ask every single time.
"I think my biggest pet peeve are my friends who don't offer to share about my business. I understand that they have not been in business for themselves, and don't really understand the stress around finances and building a successful business. Still it really irks me that my friends don't think to do this on their own without a nudge. Especially my friends who do not work inside or outside of the home, or those who are retired.
Do they really not realize that we busting our buns daily trying to create events, or products, or provide high quality services, that they either 1. Never attend no matter how many weeks in advance we invite them because they always seem to have something more important on the calendar, or 2. Don't bother to share about my business or my special events on their social media unless I ask (and I ALWAYS have to ask)! It is so seriously frustrating.
For example I own a small bakery, and my three closest friends have all raved to ME about my cookies and cupcakes, but not once have they referred anyone to me. I've given them freebies to sample, or they will ask for freebies, and they talk about how yummy they think my cakes are to ME, but still, no referrals. I host events and not once have they attended or shared with others. It really hurts my feelings, especially since they can easily afford my products for their own parties." ~ Female, 41, Pastry Chef
3. I wish my friends who ARE fellow entrepreneurs, or have a retail business, or work in the beauty industry where they build clients would think to send me referrals, or, at very least, share about my services in the same way that I share about their services.
"What is it with good friends who are also business owners being so clueless about referring to others? For example, I have a friend who has a dress shop, and another who is a massage therapist and I share about their work and businesses all the time to others and on Facebook.
I try not to feel angry, but I have referred clients to them over the years, and I make sure to praise them on my social media. I also will give them my time to help out with their resumes or reviewing their blogs. Yet, when I have something going on that is important to me they seem totally oblivious. I gotta' say it really leaves me feeling unappreciated. But, if I try and broach the topic, I end up feeling like a big old cry baby, or come across as if I am lecturing them. So, I tend to just hold it inside which is not healthy for our friendship." ~ Female, 43, Writing Coach and Copy Editor
4. I wish my mother/father/siblings would support my business the way they seem to support other businesses.
"What is interesting to me is watching my parents go on and on about a restaurant they like, or my sister constantly pitching her fitness trainer on her Facebook page, or my brother sharing events on his social media about his golf group and fund raisers, but it is a cold day in hell that any of my nearest and dearest think about sharing what I am doing in my business. I have to email or text at least 2-3 times before they remember to post something that I am doing. I don't even bother any more. But I do notice and frankly, it doesn't feel great." Male, 37, Realtor
5. I wish my pals would remember to schedule fun events during times I can actually attend. They seem to forget that if I don't work, I don't get paid. And I have to pay my own health insurance, sick time, and every single post it note, pen, roll of TP, comes out of my pocket.
"Why is it so hard to keep in mind that we small business owners love to attend events too? It would be so nice if my friends would remember when planning fun events and get-a-ways that as a small business owner, if I don't work, I don't get paid, and that I have to pay for my own health insurance, retirement, sick time, vacation time. So no, I can't cancel my clients to come to your wine tasting party on a Wednesday at 4 PM, or your book club on Friday at noon, or your clothing party on Saturday morning. Please think about my schedule once in awhile when planning these kinds of events. Not sure what my schedule is? Feel free to Ask." ~ Female, 39, Hair Salon Owner
6. I wish my non-therapist friends and loved ones understood that I can't be their pinch hitter therapist to listen to their life and relationship problems at length.
"I love my friends and I want to know what is going on in their lives. I want to offer support if they are going through a hard time. However, my wish is that they would keep in mind that a large part of my work is based on intentional listening and deep empathetic support for my therapy clients - many hours a day, many days a week, many weeks a year, many years in a row.
So, if we are meeting after our work days, please remember that I have likely been sitting in a chair for many hours intently attending to people's problems and pains. If you think this is "easy work" (as some people have stated) you have no idea what you are talking about my friend, none.
And, please do not assume that because I am a therapist, I just love listening to everyone. That would be a big error in judgement. Therapists do not generally love doing work after therapy hours.
That is not to say that I do not love my job, I do! But like most people, I don't want to get off of work, meet up with a friend, and then be right back in the position of being the good listener, having to put back on my therapist hat, and then provide you with my unwavering attention and feedback for hours on end.
And, on that note, I don't want to find a long text, PM or email asking me to diagnose your child, analyze your mother-in-law, or give you words of advise on your drug addicted brother. It is unethical for therapists to do this, and you put me in an awkward position when you do this.
If you have a friend who is a therapist, and that friend is no longer as keen to meet up with you and socialize as they once were, ask yourself if you had a hand in the cooling of the relationship. Not many people outside of the therapeutic community are familiar with the term "Compassion Fatigue" but it is a very real issue with therapists; we must be careful about burn out and how much energy we give to others in our down time. My wish is that friends would please be a bit more thoughtful and respectful of your therapist friends, we need a listening ear, some laughter, fun, adventure, and time off of the clinical clock just like anyone else." ~ Female, 40, Psychotherapist
So, there you have it dear reader, these are the six wishes that I hear most often in my professional world from fellow entrepreneurs.
And not just from my six buddies who were kind enough to candidly share their thoughts, these are the most common wishes I hear over and over again from almost every small business owner I know.
If you want to support your small business owner friend(s), here is a quick re-cap:
1. If your partner is an entrepreneur juggling many clients, responsibilities, roles and tasks, please extend some patience for their schedule and all that they juggle. I promise you they'd prefer not to work so hard.
Important: This is not to suggest that you should be delegated to last place on their list as that is not fair, but perhaps you can try and look through their lens now and then and offer some compassion and help.
If you are feeling left out and last on the list, then perhaps it is time to have a heart to heart or seek outside support.
2. If you have a friend who is in business for themselves, the best support and gift you can give them is to share about their offerings, their services, attend their events now and then, or send a referral. I promise you we really notice when our friends support our businesses this way. And we also notice when they don't. If you have a friend who is in a service industry (Interior Design, Beauty, Food) don't take advantage of freebies. Treat them with respect and pay for their time and services. Especially if you can afford it.
Here is an example from my own life of what not to do: Many years ago during grad school where I was living hand to mouth as an Interior Designer/student/intern, I had a friend ask me to come to her apartment, take her shopping, and then help her re-design her living and dining room plan. I drove 45 minutes in each direction, and we used my car to drive her around. We carted the bags up a flight of stairs, and I gave her a few hours of my design time in helping her get her place together. Then, at the end of the day, when my services were no longer required, I was breezily escorted out the door because, "I have to get ready to have my friends over for my game night and dinner party." No offer to pay for my services. No offer to re-pay me for the lunch I purchased because she forgot her cash. No offer for gas. And, most painful of all, no offer to include me with her "friend dinner party." As an entrepreneur that was a pretty low moment for me from someone I considered a close pal.
My advise: Just don't.
3. If you are also in business for yourself and you have a colleague friend who refers to your business, supports you by sharing about your work, products or services on social media, or attends your events, or has hired you or paid you for your service, then beyond a thank you, return the kindness by sharing about their offerings, and attending their events from time-to-time as well.
4. Are you a family member of a hard working small business owner? If so, do you post at least once a month about their business, products or service?
Or do you at least share about their services and events as much as you do a non family member? If not...why not? If family doesn't have your business back, who will?
5. Please remember your entrepreneur friends when you schedule your fun outings or parties. Do you really think that your hairstylist friend can attend your Saturday morning beach brunch? Don't you think your therapist pal would love to come to your Christmas luncheon? Why not plan an event now and then that is convenient for your hard working small business owner friends? I promise we love to kick our heels up too! Just don't stick us in horrible commuter traffic at the end of a long work day.
6. I have to agree with my colleague friend who outlined the sixth wish: I also really dread being held hostage by a long winded friend who is unaware that the last thing I want to do after being in therapy all day is to then sit in a chair across a bistro table while she/he complains about their life for the next two hours.
There are so many interesting topics to discuss, and while I don't mind extending a few minutes of listening as you update me on your life, relationships and your Aunt Ethel's french poodle's latest skin rash, or the woman at work who has it out for you, please keep in mind that I may not have the internal resources to attend to a long list of life problems after a long clinical day. And I promise I'll try not to do that either.
In closing, if you are a friend or family member of a small business owner, I'd love to hear your thoughts as well in the comment section below.
Or if you are a therapist or small business owner, you are welcome to share your own wish below.
Need some help with your small business or private practice goals? You are welcome to take a look at what my coaching clients and colleagues share about their experience in working with me here.