6 Things NOT to say to the Entrepreneur in your life

Today’s startup entrepreneurs endure a more intensive kind of entrepreneurship. These are the one’s who are risking it all to build breakthrough products, with the potential to the change the world and improve the lives of millions.

The pace, the stress, the uncertainty, and the existential isolation - despite having a spouse or partner -can be overwhelming.

As the romantic partner, you want to help, but It’s easy to say the wrong thing. One well-meaning question or off-handed comment can derail your partner’s entrepreneurial spirits, and turn into into despair. One misunderstanding can spiral into a fight, or worse.

It’s not that entrepreneurs are overly sensitive snowflakes. Quite the contrary: It takes a pretty thick skin and a solid ego to be an entrepreneur. But the entrepreneurial journey is fraught with risk, uncertainty, and insecurity.

And it’s a lonely, vulnerable life — even when sharing it with a spouse or partner. Entrepreneurs can withstand 200 rejections a week from investors and customers, but an offhanded comment from a loved-one can send them into a paralyzing depression.

Here are the top 6 things NOT to say to a startup founder

(And what the entrepreneur wants to say in response)

  1. When is your startup going to get funding?

“I have no idea. I’m working on it. It feels like it might be soon — but the reality is that it’s out of my control”

While we read about extraordinary funding rounds from venture capitalists, and see it every day on Shark Tank, the reality is that funding is rare. 99.99% of entrepreneurs can’t predict this when funding will happen — if ever. And even if there are prospects and interested investors — there are so many factors and things that can go wrong, the entrepreneur has no control over the process. And asking the entrepreneur to predict only adds to the stress and frustration.

2. Are you busy?


The entrepreneur may reply with frustration, or even ignore the question — but the real answer is “yes. I am busy. This is a 25 hour a day obsession. I’m frantically racing against time, money, markets, and people — but tell me what you want, and I will make time for you.”

3. Why don’t you get more people to help?

“If I could, I would.”

“At this early stage there are so many things that only I can do. And It’s a chicken and egg problem: It is so early in the process that I can’t yet attract other people to help. So — if something critical needs to be done — I am the one who needs to do it.”

4 . Can’t you just …?

“I know you didn’t mean to trivialize my full time efforts to get my startup off-the-ground, by suggesting something so simple and obvious.

‘Can’t you just …’ implies that — in the 18 hours a day I spend thinking about my venture, that I overlooked the easy way.

‘Can’t you just …’ suggests that that should I comprise on something for the sake of expediency — and I am sure you didn’t mean it that way.”

5. I found a link to a company doing the same thing as you’re doing.

“I know you want to help, but …

  • Thanks. This is my full time job. I probably already know all about all the other companies in my space.
  • That link shows me that you really have no clue as to what my idea is about, and this makes me a little sad.
  • I’m getting snippy because, while you want to seem helpful, sending the link is like telling me ‘what you’re doing is not so special, and even doomed, since there’s already someone who beat you to the market.’”

6. At what point do you decide to stop trying/stop working on this?

“I know this is hard on us. I am just as frustrated as you are and I badly want to succeed. This is my dream. Are you asking me to give up?”

The best thing to say to a startup entrepreneur is:

“I believe in you. I know you will succeed. How can I help?”

CJ Cornell is a serial entrepreneur, investor, advisor, mentor, author, speaker, and educator. As an entrepreneur, CJ Cornell was a founder of more than a dozen successful startup ventures that collectively attracted over $250 million in private funding; created nearly a thousand new jobs; and launched dozens of innovative consumer, media, and communications products — that have exceeded $3 billion in revenues.

He is the author of the bestsellingThe Age of Metapreneurship — A Journey into the Future of Entrepreneurship.”

And the upcoming “The Startup Brain Trust — A Guidebook for Startups, Entrepreneurs, and the Mentors that Help them Become Great.”

Follow him @cjcornell or visit: www.cjcornell.com

Image Credit:

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay.

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CJ Cornell

CJ Cornell


Professor of #Entrepreneurship & Digital Media. Serial/Parallel Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, Mentor, Angel Investor, #VC. Crowdfunding & #Startups Evangelist