They’re Just Not That Into You

(My column as it appeared in Upmarket magazine week of June 24th)

Although the headline suggests something on the lines of dating, what most entrepreneurs experience with either friends or family amounts to just about the same feelings when it comes to them valuing your opinion or advice when asked. Just because you might be a recognized expert with awards and accolades, to most of your immediate family or fiends, you’re just you.

Have you ever been asked for advice by a family member only to stand in bewilderment when they go right ahead and do the exact opposite? There’s a reason but it’s not what you might think.

Your family of course loves you; will stand behind you, will encourage you, and more. However most won’t see you in the same light as the experts they believe have the answers. They may nod in agreement with you, even state your advice was brilliant, but in actuality they probably tuned you out unknowingly. Why? It’s because through their eyes you are their peer, and if they don’t know the answers instinctively they’ll believe you don’t either. Regardless of your accomplishments.

Years ago this was explained to me by a friend using the best example I ever heard. He was the CFO responsible for the accounting of a major corporation generating tens of millions of dollars annually. He said: “Your family is the first ones to think you’re a schmuck!”  At first I was aghast but as he described his reasoning, I found myself in total agreement, and things in my own life became easier because I now knew it wasn’t just me. It happens to everyone, everywhere, worldwide because more or less it’s the human condition.

My friend’s wife decided she was going to open a business. At the kitchen table they were discussing details. The scope and scale of the business was in line with running a lemonade stand. Her concern? Would they be able to afford an accountant for the start-up? Remember he’s the CFO of a multimillion dollar enterprise, but to her, he’s just her husband. I’ll bet many of you can relate to this with your own experiences. Don’t assume for a moment that some of the finest Doctors or Lawyers on the planet weren’t asked by their family members if they should seek a second opinion or counsel before acting on their advice. It’s just the way it is.

Currently I’m closing in on my third decade of matrimony. My wife is supportive, been through thick and thin, and is my most trusted ally. She’s witnessed my triumphs and accolades from a front row seat. Yet, even though she’s fully aware I’m a Master Meat Cutter, been a liaison to the USDA, was one of the first to formulate compliance programs for a meat company based on programs instituted by NASA (that’s HACCP), and ran the #2 largest private meat company in New England. When we are at the supermarket she’ll ask: “Are you sure you want to buy that? Maybe we should ask the kid behind the counter if it’s going to be tough.”

I just say, “Sure, after all, they’re the experts.”

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr