How To Turn Down Friends and Family In Business

Friends and family will ask you, as a business owner, for everything from money to labor.  This is a lesson in the art of "no".

Friends and family will ask you, as a business owner, for everything from money to labor.  This is a lesson in the art of "no".


I learned a valuable lesson about family and friends at a young age.

I attribute it to the movie “A Bronx Tale”.

In the movie, “C” is a kid who looks up to Sonny, a local mob boss. One day C is complaining to Sonny about loaning another kid $20. The kid is dodging C so that he doesn’t have to pay him back.

So C is hating on the kid. It’s consuming his every thought.

Sonny asks C, “Do you like this kid?”

C replies, “No, I hate him!”

Sonny’s response? “Perfect, then it only cost you $20 to get him out of your life.”

It begs the question – what do you do when family or friends ask you for help? I’m not talking about the neighborly kind of help. I’m talking about when they ask you, as a business owner, to help them.

I probably get at least 50 requests a week. From investment money for startups to support for GoFundMe campaigns. From charitable donations to equity stake in exchange for marketing services.

So how do you weed through them and pick who you can and can’t support? But more importantly – how do you say “sorry” without looking like a jerk?

By the end of this year, we’ll probably invest in about a dozen startups. We’ll have donated tens of thousands of dollars in money and or services. But aren’t you only as good as the last thing you say “yes” to?

Time now to explore some tactful ways you can say “no”.

  1. Don’t ignore the personal messages.

It seems like more and more people are understanding the power of asking one on one. It’s much easier to ignore a request in which your name is one of 100 tagged on Facebook. It’s much more challenging when it’s an intimate request. In cases like this, politely explain that you’ve already allocated all of your charitable resources for the year. Apologize. Be sincere and be authentic. What’s worse than saying no, in this case? Saying nothing.

  1. Share Empathy – And Resources

Truth of the matter is that you can’t give money to absolutely everyone. But you can give them your emotional support. You can offer them resources. I was hit up recently by someone who needed financial help to pay off high interest credit cards after screwing up her finances. She put together an online campaign to help her. That wasn’t going to fly in my book – but I was able to point her in the way of someone who helped reorganize both her finances and her interest rates.

  1. Understand You Probably Won’t See The Money Again

Let’s say you go ahead and loan the friend or family member some money. Assume that the money is gone. If it comes back to you, amazing. But do it because it feels good to help others – not because you expect to see it again.

  1. Honesty Is The Best Policy

Perhaps the cause isn’t something you believe in. Maybe you just can’t afford it. It’s possible that you don’t have the resources to give them what they need. People appreciate your money and support – but they also respect honesty (even if it’s not what they were looking for). Respect yourself and them enough to be candid.

  1. Understand That By Saying “No” You Are Saying “Yes”

Let’s look at this in simple financial terms. That $100 donation? The $10,000 in labor they want? That small loan? There’s an opportunity cost. Understand that by saying “no”, you’re actually freeing up the money and resources to be invested or donated into something or someone you believe in MORE.

I’d love to hear from you – what are some tricks you’ve learned for saying “no”?


Kyle Reyes is President and CEO of The Silent Partner Marketing.  He's also an acclaimed Keynote Speaker on entrepreneurship, leadership, marketing and social media.  You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.