How can I stop my son using his inheritance to start a business?

If you try to discourage him, he's likely to go ahead anyway, but may fail and not ask for help. Encouragement works better, says Jeremy Bullmore.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 03 May 2016

Q: My son has just hit 25 and come into a substantial chunk of cash left him by my mother years ago. Granny meant him to buy a flat, but he wants to use it to start his own pet care business. I love him to bits and I want him to succeed, but I am not sure he has the drive to see this idea through. He's never really settled to anything and I am scared he will lose not only the money but also the security it might bring. What can I do?

Jeremy says:  Consider the alternatives and think through the consequences. Tell your son that you doubt his ability to drive this idea through. Remind him that his grandmother hoped he'd use this money to buy a flat. Express your serious fear that he'll lose the lot - at exactly the time of his life when he should be aiming to build security. In other words, make it brutally clear that you have absolutely no confidence in him. As a consequence, he'd almost certainly go ahead anyway, but would be so determined to prove you wrong that he'd persevere recklessly and very possibly crash. 

Or you could share his excitement. Remind him that a high proportion of new business ventures fail, so the challenge is to beat the odds - which you're sure he can do. Offer to be there to help and advise but only if he thinks you might help; it's his show. As a consequence, he'd almost certainly go ahead, but rather more thoughtfully. And he wouldn't feel that asking for advice was an admission of failure.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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