Apr 08 2010

One Big Happy Family – The Big Lie

The Assumption

Many business associations promote the idea that, because entrepreneurs are involved in building a business, they are all brothers and sisters… one big happy family. There’s a common bond with interests that bring everyone together.  No matter what their background, two entrepreneurs can get together at a convention to share ideas.  A lot of barriers in the real world vanish during these meetings, allowing people to meet each other and talk, because of their common interest. Nationality, location, race, profession, culture, and other differences do not exist and everyone is treated equally.

If you are a part of the fellowship you are expected to behave in a certain way. At a convention you’re expected to behave like a member of a large family. This usually means sharing and accepting your peers regardless of background. If you break the family “code” you’ll be perceived as insincere and a detriment to the spirit of the organization.

The idea of belonging to a family is a good one. It promotes creativity and can be inspiring to share ideas. BUT, the notion of being brothers and sisters is usually carried too far.

The Danger

Too often the bonding is not based on having a friendship in a real sense, but instead is based on nothing more than the members having a common interest.

Many times the notion of family becomes more important than anything else and overshadows building genuine relationships. I think it becomes a problem when people automatically accept anyone into the family just because they have some degree of like interest. Is it realistic to believe that because we’re interested in the same thing, that this alone makes us equal? No, I don’t think so.

The Magic Convention Example

I read a great story that illustrates the potential problems. A very well know professional magician Fred Kaps was sitting in the lobby at a magic convention. One of the convention attendees approached Fred and asked him to explain one of his tricks. Mr. Kaps politely refused.  Puzzled, the magician asked “Why not, we’re all colleagues here!” Fred laughed and said “Colleagues? Look man, I’m a magician. You are a gardener. We are not colleagues!”

Ouch! The sad part of the story is now the magician feels insulted. He thought Kaps was his equal and that he wasn’t living up to the expectation that it was his duty to give him whatever he asked.  Kaps could have said anything and would have been considered rude… anything other than explaining the trick that he probably labored over for years.

The feeling of entitlement runs wild in the family.  Sorry, but Mr. Kaps or anyone for that matter, owes you nothing! This ignorance is the result of not understanding the value of goals achieved by someone else. Unfortunately, this illusion of equality is promoted by many conference organizers.

“Friendship is a thing of great beauty – but friendship must grow between people. It can’t be instantly installed between two strangers.” ~Tommy Wonder

The Solution

In business, I think we can all agree there are different levels of achievement. Most people know where they stand among their peers. To others it will be difficult to face this truth because of the illusion of fraternity.

Know where you stand and eliminate the notion of entitlement, and you will build relationships with people that will want to help you. Be sure you bring something to the table and help others before expecting them to do the same.

That’s what I think, what about you? I would love to hear your thoughts.


  • By Thu Nguyen, April 27, 2010 @ 2:29 am

    Interesting point Tim. It kinds of make the coming together with like-minded people like a blind path towards networking doesn't it? We aren't really knowing each other in a true sense but towards a topic which we share passionate interest in.

    To some extent, there's always flaws to any system. Getting to know our brethren better is always a good thing. At least enough to know that he or she is willing to share something with us.


  • By Tim, April 27, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

    Yes, hard to avoid the flaws. 🙂 Networking can be a good thing when everyone understands the motives. Thanks for stopping by, Thu.

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