Monkey or Turn Key

By Deana L Molinari PhD
Parents struggle to support their families. Those choosing to start a business wonder how they can alter their lifestyles.  Cutting budget corners only goes so far. Small business ventures assist people in earning extra money and finding fulfillment. There are so many opportunities today. Few publications support families. Artistic perspectives (AP) discusses issues, consults with the curious, and teaches families how to survive.
What characterizes a “small” business? Governments define “small” business as privately owned companies with limited income, few products, lacking the customer volume of regular sized corporations. Artistic Perspectives (AP) expands the term to include: short and tall, young and old share holders from all countries with few or many resources including home-grown employees. Operating a small business can be difficult work or a dream come true.
New companies entail dedication of savings, energy, passions and endurance. For this reason, a lot of thought is required before deciding whether to start-up. Some families begin several times before they find a profitable future. Finding the right venture is not always easy; but there are many benefits tied to the begin again process. Each new effort includes challenges, learning, and fear of failure.
The most common reason kinfolk choose business solutions is the hope to secure the clan’s future. In the beginning of a new venture, decision makers may work two jobs. One employer is needed just to support the start-up.
I have heard family members beg to escape the monkey business world and get on with life. The question is: Which is monkey business-working for others or for yourself?
New York state reports up to 98 percent of businesses are small family endeavors which employ more than half of the state’s workforce. Internationally the statistics are about 70% of all private companies are family operated.
The reasons for choosing a small enterprise may have little to do with money. Some people feel they do not fit into large corporate structures. Another reason according to the authors of “Why Talk about Enterprise” is that small companies are more efficient than large corporations. Small ventures supply large companies and can compete with them preventing monopolies. Services and products delivered by small firms are often preferred by the public. The public desires specialists who can serve small special needs.
In the 1800’s family production was the main lifestyle. People worked farms and supplemented income with commercial ventures. Today the family farm is big business but the need to supplement income is still the same. So families that  manufacture items, create goods, supply technology, provide services, and act as middle men are in high demand.
Potential entrepreneurs are required to investigate all aspects of the business world before declaring their desire to pay more taxes. Artisans may not know anything about management . They just want to sell their homemade products. Those that think specialty knowledge is sufficient to compete in a global market may learn that governments do not reward ignorance. The penalties for not understanding laws can be expensive.
Knowledge and courage are key to business survival. Sometimes entrepreneurs lack friends and support while still others complain that family support is their biggest challenge. Every business is a struggle. There are many commerce horror stories. Some even turn into family legends.
Connecting with legal and financial advisers is only a small part of opening a business. Starting up is like turning the key of an old car. Sometimes nothing happened and at other times the motor runs but a flat tire needs repair. Automobile owners learned the mechanics of the new inventions because there were so few cars. Today business mechanics are mastered because each business requires its own mechanic.
The choice to open a family business is a decision to do without what others find “normal”. Operators find a routine schedule, relaxation time, self-confidence, and a regular pay stub unusual. These gifts appear after considerable learning, time, and effort.
Think of all a family must learn. Families must identify their values, manage home life and branch out to business skills. Knowing how to hire, train, evaluate, and manage personnel involves choosing among conflicting human resource and family theories. Taking advantage of trends requires research and risk management. Families need to know how to budget but also when to give kids an allowance for laboring after school. Family leaders debate the issues around the dinner table.; but legislators around the world discuss the same issues. Learning the family business politics develops  future community leaders. Isn’t a small town just a grouping of families? National politics is just a matter of scale.
Business partnerships study governmental regulations for managing personnel. Corporations are hampered by the lack of variety in employee rewards. The most popular are money, time off, praise, and promotion. Family endeavors enjoy more rewards because they operate in two environments. The home allows for positive rewards like star charts, cookies, family competition, frequent breaks, parties, and television.  These rewards prepare employees for work life. Home life offers some negative rewards that do not work in the office. For instance, a boy created arguments with his sister when washing dishes just to earn the negative “time out” reward. He thought staying in his room with his toys was better than drying dishes. The sister had to educate her mother and supervisor of his motivations before the behavior stopped. In this example, the participants are young, but the strategy is employed by all ages. Managers watch for sluggards and prefer to motivate rather than punish. Have you found a strategy that works for employees who want to be fired? Share it please.
Managers organize complicated warehouse and shipping networks.  Who knew stamps aren’t part of the mailing? Knowledge is the first thing stored in a family business. Families warehouse products on the kitchen table, supplies under beds, equipment in the family room, and then expand to the garage and small storage facilities. Storing practical experience is often done by telling jokes to family members. “Did you see what ….. did?” Shared stories can result in company policies.
Families work life can be fun. Assessments are a crucial factor in deciding whether or not to jump into commerce’s deep end. Corporations hold management meetings while families organize weekly councils. I know a family grocery that provides dinner during management meetings. No matter how large the company, knowing employee’s strengths and weaknesses is vital. Personality and skill surveys  reside on the internet. Some are expensive while others are free.
Book stores contain how-to books for developing strong families and basic business skills. The internet offers articles, news, college courses, and discussion groups. You can also find jokes, garbage, and scams. Be careful in what you choose to view.
Family business models differ just a large enterprises differ. One family member may act as the commerce motivator, another as marketer, or still another as bean counter. I prefer the role of cook, but I haven’t found a Family Business Cookbook. If you write one, I will consider mentioning it on the internet and experimenting in my kitchen. The point is that each family is different. There are many roles members can play even if the individual is not involved in daily management. Wives, children, siblings and extended family, counsel, warn and set goals as do large corporations. Success depends on dedication, unification, dreaming, time management, sacrifice, labor, budgeting, record keeping, communication, and endurance. Whew! Other important roles include webmaster, sweeper, talking to friends (marketing), and keeping the clean laundry folded.
Learning one’s family business role may be problematic. Astronomers recently reported that stars do well when given lots of space but when 2 or 3 gather together  gravity pulls them in different directions. A recent science program reported that two near by stars are close enough to touch and are expected to merge and explode within five years. Leaders of family businesses may struggle with relationship explosions periodically. Proximity issues must be managed. In addition, leaders need to teach family members a variety of human resource skills.
Educational degrees, certificates and continuing education courses can ease managerial burdens. Other leaders need babysitters. Each family decides which resources take precedence. Networks and business associations  can share knowledge.  Participants learn skills, secure advice, understand trends, incorporate research, and market expertise. Associations also provide opportunities to serve.
Family businesses seek  the same resources while factoring in developmental growth stages. A family business travels through the same growth stages as a family: Pregnancy, bottle feeding, potty-training, school, and independence. Each stage involves everyone’s cooperation. The business plan equates to a pregnancy. This nesting stage requires extra nourishment and protection, frequent professional consultation, and suffering through labor issues. Lots of time and money are needed to produce a baby business.
Marketing, legal, financial, and human resources skills are taught at conferences and in most family business gatherings. Business associations allow people to pool their powers to influence governments and open new markets. Small businesses can use international conferences for vacation opportunities. Some small firms may apply the family reunion model for conferences Both models provide family recreation. Networking can be fun.
Just think what a single family business conference can accomplish if organized like a national conference. Each member of the family association can head a planning committee for the yearly gathering. Potential speakers can submit speaking proposals. The whole family can vote on the speaker’s topics. Poster sessions teach many topics without using on site personnel.
Awards dinners with musical entertainment often end the daily meeting sessions. Seems most meals circle around chicken no matter how large the attendance. Potlucks can be more fun than Malibu chicken in a conference room. Try it. Networking sessions fit around a swimming pool, poster sessions, or kick the can games. Some businesses share success recipes, and bloopers for entertainment. There are participants who prefer to feed the bears at national parks, skydive or mountain climb. No matter what you do, the gathering inspires participants to try new strategies and work hard.
Family owned enterprises may experience challenges due to relationships as mentioned previously. Weekly, monthly and yearly assemblies to learn about communication, responsibilities, global trends, and inheritance issues can uplift organizations. Family leadership may be more complex than other organizations but regular educational conferences will enrich the establishments.
What challenges would you like to know more about? Submit your comments. We will get back to you so that you can turn the key on your own family business.
Bridge S. & O’Neill K.  (2012). Understanding Enterprise: Entrepreneurship and Small Business 4th Edition.