A Publication of WTVP

Having owned a business for 15 years this month—and 23 years after working on the first InterBusiness Issues with my husband—I am finding that old habits are hard to break. Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself and the baggage I still carry around.

That old, worn black briefcase that I lug with me back and forth to work every day— big as a suitcase!—is one example. It’s stuffed with magazines to read, proofs to go through, and financial statements and other papers to review—all for later, “when I have time.” Often times, the briefcase never even makes it out of the car, and when it does, it may return home with the same load. But like a purse, I feel lost without it.

I carry daily backup tapes of our computer network, even though it can now be backed up to the “cloud.” And now that I’ve transitioned my work computer to a laptop, it goes in yet another black case to be transported back and forth daily—in case I find the time to work from home, other than from my mobile device!

Alan L. Carsrud, former executive director of the Global Entrepreneurship Center at Florida International University, has described family ventures as “the totem pole that the family dances around.” In tough times, family-owned businesses can often summon resources that others may not be able to do as easily. The advantages of family businesses—agility, solidarity, loyalty, control and commitment among them—cannot be underestimated.

In this issue, Brenda Tomlinson of McDaniels Marketing points out that family businesses represent relationship marketing at its finest—very true. A large, integral part of business is about building relationships, and in this realm, family businesses often have a step up. People like to do business with people they know and trust.

It’s challenging enough to run your own business, but running it with a spouse, siblings, children or other family members can multiply the strains and tensions of business ownership. Yet when they work, many of us wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

Most family-owned businesses—definitely the first generation—tend to think of the business as another child, almost a living entity. Perhaps that’s why I can’t give up my baggage: so much of my life is carried around in that briefcase. When asked about succession or retirement, I just smile and say, “I don’t know what I would do without my work.” But I do hope that when it’s time, I will know. Downsizing my baggage might be a good place to start. iBi