Like many of my peers, I held many jobs in college. My work in bars was among the most interesting. We were bartenders then, not mixologists. For a student, it was hard to beat the pay.

I learned a lot of things. For instance, financially good jobs tend to come with a cost. In this case, the hours were terrible and not conducive for academic excellence. I found people love you when you are pouring drinks but can have little regard for you when you change roles to break up a fight. Most importantly, I learned owning a business is totally different than being an employee and involves a lot of hard work. Running a bar is particularly tough.

So, the first time a client of mine told me they wanted to help a child start a business, the business was, of course, a bar. I had some concerns. I knew the son was an experienced bartender but it wasn’t the good kind of experience. In the five years, I had known the family, his longest stint at any one place was eight months and he hadn’t been switching jobs by choice.

He had a problem showing up on time. He had stolen money from the till, given away too many drinks to his friends and female patrons he liked, and he allowed other employees to do the same. In their minds, these behaviors were acceptable because the owners were bad bosses that just collected gobs of cash for not doing much more than being stern with employees.

He thought buying a bar and hiring his co-conspirators was a great idea. He couldn’t get fired, his friends would have a boss they liked, and he’d collect plenty of money. 

Mom, my client, liked the idea too. Junior hadn’t shown any enthusiasm for much of anything in years but he was excited about this idea. She put more emphasis on the quantity of his experience than the quality. By the time she talked to me about it, she had already said she would do it. “Her boy” (age 47 by the way) just needed a boost.

From my seat, this was a disaster waiting to happen. Junior had no appreciation for what it takes to run a bar. He also never thought that if his would-be employees would steal with him, they might steal from him.   

I tried showing her that most small businesses failed, especially bars. It all fell on deaf ears and ended as I feared. The bar had a good opening month then faltered and died. She lost every penny she gave him.

I was crushed. She was fine. To her it was just the latest cost of being a parent. She told me, “If having kids was a financial decision, there wouldn’t be so many people in the world.” 

Despite my failure that first time, I’ve since had more success working through the issues surrounding my clients’ inclination to fund businesses of their offspring.

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