A new year is an opportunity for a fresh start in your business and family life. There are good reasons to consider combining the two in a family business. All of the family business owners I’ve interviewed have been frank about the challenges of running a family business and have shared how to avoid pitfalls. The consensus is that it’s rewarding and worthwhile, if you can make it work. A few shared that it saved their family from breakups and economic devastation. Here are five reasons why you should give the idea of owning a family business your full attention:
1. Represent your culture.
T&T Supermarket Inc. is an Asian supermarket chain that has been operating for over 20 years. Cindy Lee, CEO, was a housewife with few options to cook traditional foods and decided to solve the problem with a family business. She works with her daughter, Tina Lee, director of strategy and operations. Tina wants to be as successful as her mother, and views her family business as an opportunity to represent her culture. According to Tina, “Our mission has expanded to be an ambassador of Asian food and Asian cuisine. One of our challenges is to extend our customer base beyond the Asian family and grow it into the mainstream family as well.”
2. Leave a legacy.
Jennifer Gannon operates BonaVista Pools, with her brother and sister. Her mother, Liz Gannon, is the principal owner. They build custom pools for world-class luxury brands. Her father built the business and left it to the family when he passed at age 60.
Jennifer remembers the spiritual legacy her father left behind after watching her father run the family business: “My father demonstrated a tremendous work ethic, a great love for his wife and his five children and a deep faith.”
Legacy is important in Jennifer’s family and business. Her grandmother wrote a book covering 100 years for her 50th wedding anniversary, sharing her family history as far back as 30 years before she was born. Documenting your journey of starting and growing a family business may help your present and future family members avoid mistakes and have a head start in life.
3. Become your child’s hero.
Gail Souter, of Beck Taxi, is the general manager of her soon-to-be third generation family business. She credits her entrepreneur dad for her success and opportunity to run a company. Her leadership team includes her husband, her two children and her son-in-law.
Kristine Hubbard, operations manager and Gail’s daughter, is proud of her mother. “My mom is my ultimate role model. It’s so much to do with the way that she has built this business, and the way that she’s known as being a fair and trustworthy person.”
4. Grow personally and professionally.
Bruce and Lori Zeller operate Williams Kampgrounds of America. Their daughter, Madison, has worked in guest services. Running the campground requires their full attention and energy. Lori is honest about the demands of their family business: “This job is not for the weak or the faint of heart.”
Some days include digging out sewer lines, cleaning up vomit, toilets and “deposits” left by kids who“lose it” in the swimming pool. They work 12 to 14 hours, seven days a week during a typical season. Overcoming their challenges has produced growth in their personal and business lives. The rewards of business ownership make it worth it.
5. Solve problems for your own family and others.
J.D. and Shelly Sun are the co-founders of BrightStar Care, a healthcare staffing company. The company was birthed out of frustrations around finding quality care for J.D.’s mother. His mother passed away just prior to their marriage, and they started the company several months later in memory of her.
J.D. and Shelly quit their jobs. His advice at a recent conference was to go for it: “What did we know about healthcare? Nothing. But, we knew that we could make a difference. We could figure this thing out, because I had just been through this experience with my grandma. I knew that there were other people out there just like us, waiting for someone like us to provide them a solution to help them with their grandparents.''
A new year is chance for a new you and a new family. Consider becoming a business family. Take time to craft new year’s resolutions that include working together and building a successful family business.