This Holiday Season, Talk Business at the Dinner Table
Like many Americans, I spent this past week with my family enjoying turkey, stuffing (or dressing if you prefer that word), and my favorite part, mashed potatoes. As we sat around the table, the conversations seamlessly flowed and we discussed everything from friends to popular culture. Among the approved topics is everyone’s job (come on, like your family doesn’t have some white elephants in the room).
As long as I can remember, my family has always talked about their jobs and how business is going. Many times, the topic of work organically comes into the conversation. Questions like “when are you going to get a significant other?” and “which freeway do you avoid?” seem to always get answered with a “well because of work…” response.
Now, I am sure that some psychologist somewhere is going to tell me how unhealthy this is. They will go on and say something to effect of “keep the business conversation in the office and away from the dinner table.” Although I am not one to argue with an expert I believe they are wrong on this one – talk as much business as you want.
Before we get too far into it let me start with a little warning: do not over do this. I am not suggesting you go to dinner with your family and every chance you get you bring up work (then again, for workaholics, this can be hard to control). I believe there is a time and place for everything but when work jumps into your head, do not shy away from it, talk about it and here’s why:
Why Talk Business at the Dinner Table?
This should go without saying but your family members are individuals. They have their own skills, passions, and opinions. They have experienced things and have made decisions all on their own. As much as we tend to forget it, they are our greatest support system and fan club. At the same time, they can provide us with the most brutally honest and real feedback that we need.
To sum it up, use them! Surprisingly, you will find that your family is a great resource for your business.
Ok, ok, ok, maybe “use them” is not the right phrase. All I am trying to say is because of their own experiences, and their willingness to lend a helping hand, it makes them a great business ally. They will provide you with advice and ideas that will help you and your business succeed.
So what should you ask?
Question Idea 1: Ask About Your Business
Let’s be real – family conversations can sometimes get boring (dearest family, of course our family does not have this problem… readers: *wink, wink*). If the conversation seems to die down a bit you can always ask your family for their opinion on whatever business related thought that comes to mind. Perhaps you have a family member who is the perfect potential client, ask them what they think about your latest product. Maybe your cousin is a business owner as are you, ask them if they have any tricks or favorite products. Chances are your family will have something to say (even if they are a couple glasses of wine in). Do not be afraid to probe for more information or even to get constructive criticism, it can only help.
Question Idea 2: Ask About Their Business
Real life – if it wasn’t for me asking about my families business and jobs I would not be where I am today. I am always asking my family how their business is going. I want to know everything from coworker drama to sales slowing.
Why? Well, why not?!
No really, I learn a lot from hearing about my family’s experiences and how they dealt with them. I like knowing that they deal with similar situations as I do even when our industries or job descriptions are completely opposite. It turns out, business is business regardless of what the model or product is.
Besides the “power in numbers” feeling I get, sometimes I learn about products, services, and/or companies that may help me in my own business. For example, my Dad sells trailers (I mean the big rigs that annoy everyone when they drive). A year or so ago my Dad told me about a new law that will require trailers to keep electronic records (or something like that). Immediately upon hearing this, I thought “how can I get Colocation America involved in this new big data industry?” If I had not asked about his business or how it was going, I may never had known this.
Remember, keep your mind open and there will be an endless possibilities on how you can take the trials and tribulations of your family and learn from it.
Question Idea 3: Ask About Work/Life Balance
There is more to life than work. I know, crazy, right? For some of us, we lose sight of that every once in awhile. One of the best ways I remind myself of this fact is by talking to my family about how they handle it all.
I am sure many of your family members have kids, significant others, and a full time job. For me, I am always marveled by how much they all do outside of work so it’s an easy question: how do you do it? Politely, they laugh at me and ask when I am going to get my personal life rolling and respond with some superhero answer. Every once in awhile they will tell me of a “hack” or an app that has put it all in perspective.
Most of the time I take mental notes of all the things NOT to do. For example, do not be late for date night because you are at work. To sum it up, whatever advice or antidote they give you, listen. Chances are you and your family members approach situations similarly so use their mistakes and successes as a way to navigate the tricky path between the two rules. And if that doesn’t work, you can always read my blog on it here (yep, I did another shameless plug, enjoy).
Now that you have some questions to ask, what makes the best environment to ask them?
3 Tricks to Getting the Best Answers Out of Your Family
Every holiday season emotions run high so here are three tricks to getting great answers to your business questions:
Trick 1: Include the Kids
Have you ever talked to a 7 year old? Man, can they be brutal! Don’t forget that your kids have opinions too. Keep them involved in your business conversation and maybe, just maybe, they will make perfect sense of a complicated situation. If not, they can always provide comedic relief. At the worst, you are exposing kids to the many ins and outs of the workforce.
Trick 2: Stay Away from Business Conversations with Your Family Members that Work with You
The biggest faux pas of any family gathering is bringing up a sensitive subject. For family members that work with you that includes work. Whatever you do stay away from having the conversation with the family member you work with. Trust me – run! Go to anyone else but that person (or two) and you may just save yourself.
Trick 3: Wine, wine, and more wine
When in doubt, bring out the wine. Come on, be honest with yourself, wine and other alcoholic beverages make you tell the truth, don’t they?! Let the wine help do the talking and you will get great insights (or at least dumb ones you can laugh about later). For those of you who work in nonprofits, this is the perfect time to get some “volunteers.” For the rest, just use the wine as truth serum and really learn what people think.
After all, family is forever, right?!?
My name is Samantha Walters and I am what you would consider a “millennial executive” over at Colocation America. Every Monday (get it, get it, Samantha on Mondays – the S.O.M column) I will write a little something on whatever is on my mind from business practices to current events and everything else in between.