Why I Ask About Your Family

Most Thursdays, I spend the morning with 5-6 people who sign up for my office hours.

I try to ask (and generally succeed) at guiding people to talking about themselves, their stories before we get too deep into the weeds about their, or *gasp* say the word “wireframe.” *

It’s not just making small talk for the sake of southern manners, I ask because the business of a startup doesn’t confine itself to the professional part of anyone’s life. They require a deep committment, and more often than not, a substantial investment of support and understanding on the part of people in an entrepreneur’s life. And that means spouses, partners, kids, friends, parents are on the team just behind co-founders.

I ask, too, because it helps surface themes that can be erased, namely the ones that have been swirling closer to the surface lately: parental leave, retaining women in the workforce, the dearth of female founders.

Admittedly, I have The Wheel of Health (as expressed by Duke Integrative Medicine’s experts) on the brain after a weekend with some very smart, intuitive people.

Over lunch, we talked about how applying the themes to startup founders, regardless of gender, would help reinforce the realities of parenthood and care taking (some of us are thinking about how we’ll support our parents when they need it), and help us, in turn, do a better job of supporting whole people.

We asked each other lots of questions:

How would we best support teams who are working long hours and don’t have time to cook balanced food?

What would be a better perk for working, breastfeeding moms, beer on tap or a mother’s room? (Which, by the way, isn’t actually a perk, it or its equivalent is required.)

If millennial workers need mentoring, how can we best connect them with ways to people who will form real two-way mentoring relationships with them?

So, if you come to sit down with me, I’m going to ask you about your life, not just your company.


* Demo’s are nice, I guess, but I’m so much more interested in using people-to-people time for the stuff that is best handled in person. If I’m interested in the peculiarities of a product, I’ll go look it up or request some additional info after a meeting. Know, too, that I don’t assume I know what’s a good or bad idea in a first meeting.