“Are you managing a Family Business?”
‘Family Business’ seems an ordinary enough description of a status, a neutral way to state a fact. In reality it reflects on me either as blessing or a curse. When I tell people that “yes, I am the manager of a Family Business”, it seems that half the people suddenly want to put me on a pedestal, while the the other half somehow thinks less of me.
Why do people have such contrary responses to the concept of the ‘Family Business’?
For the former I am an inspiration, the living proof that you can run a business with love. They see a craftsmanship, a product or a service that is passed along many generations of a family. A local business that makes the community proud. Proof that doing business does not have to be a cold and clinical process that is only about contracts and cash flow. Basically, when you deal with a family business, you will encounter human emotions.
This is where the latter group comes in. They are the ones suspect of bringing emotions into economy. They think it is an antiquated or at best limited way of doing business. Why would you want to take tradition into account making a business decision about millions of euros? Why would you base your strategy on the opinion of a dominant family member that once set the chart for the company, but is now older and out of touch with the digital era? Business has no place at the kitchen table, right?
Personally I am not at all discouraged by these opposing views, I take it as a challenge that the Family Business evokes such strong responses. (The Family Business is Super Sexy, is my take on it.) But I have a feeling that we are approaching a crossroads. Are Family Businesses content to slip away into relics from the past? Or are they standing up as a role model for the Economy of the Future: engaged, creative and full of earning potential.
You understand that I take option two.
As ambassador for NL Grows (nlgroeit.nl), a Dutch foundation that helps entrepreneurs grow their business, my goal is to stimulate in the current generation of Family Business managers what I see as the key to success: G.U.T.S. If you don’t have the guts to tear away from the previous generations, or if you hide behind legal constructs that shield you from the outside world, or if you get complacent with your role as a local hero, then a viable Family Business with all its charm and positive vibes turns very vulnerable. It will find itself in danger of being incorporated or obliterated by some soulless chain store.
I am doing everything in my power to stop that from happening.
Because Family Businesses are the foundation of our economy and an indispensable source of job satisfaction.