16 Lessons from 16 Years in a Family Business

16 Lessons from 16 Years in a Family Business
16 Lessons from 16 Years in a Family Business

This month I celebrate my second significant “sweet sixteen” anniversary. It was February 1999, when my father and I joined the FranNet family as the franchisees serving Metro Atlanta. I was 25 years old then, so in many ways I have “grown up” in our FranNet franchise consulting practice. I’d like to think along the way I’ve gained some wisdom about life, people, and business in choosing the path of self reliance in business ownership; here are sixteen lessons I’ve learned so far…

  1. Time is always more valuable than money and money does not buy time. We all know this but rearranging our time around what impacts our happiness the most is the can that gets kicked down the road in order to “get ahead.” It’s “when I get the next promotion,” or “when I get through this next season,” that I’ll rearrange my priorities. But that day NEVER comes; there’s always something else. I’ve learned that being ferocious about creating healthy boundaries with time is a conscious, daily effort and it starts TODAY or never.

  2. I am grateful that my parents allowed, encouraged and required that I work in high school and college. Parents today allowing their kids to graduate high school and college without ever having a boss, co-workers, customers, an interview process and a paycheck where taxes are taken out are setting their children up to fail as adults. We live in a fiercely competitive business and career climate where “focus on school” does not cut it. While I did not appreciate it at the time, my work experience in high school and college helped prepare me to be successful in my own business at a young age; many of the responsibilities I encountered as a young business owner were not new to me and it made a big difference.

  3. The Universe will always test resolve. A mentor once explained this to me in this way; when you “name and claim” what you really want, the Universe always tests you to see if you are ready for and can handle what you wish to manifest. The test comes in the form of the opposite of what is wanted. I rearranged my schedule to only see clients on certain days and like clockwork, the clients who were knocking on my door could only meet at times outside of my new schedule. The testing requires us to stick to our guns and commit to what we really want.

  4. There is no separation between the business and personal self; and trying to keep them separate is exhausting and counter productive. In the early years, I thought letting business relationships into my personal sphere was not a good idea; keep business to business, right? Business became a whole lot more fun and productive when I allowed business relationships to know me outside of business. We like to do business with other human beings.

  5. Forgoing sleep and exercise for money and power...don’t do it. Yes we all have the occasional project that we burn the midnight oil for, but as a standard practice is an affront to the reason we do what we do. Nobody goes into business or strives to climb in their career to be rewarded with exhaustion, failing health, and damaged relationships.

  6. Keep fixed personal expenses low. I cannot count the number of times that dreams of being able to start one’s own business or make a career change are squelched because of having to support high personal overhead. Big mortgages, vacation homes, new i-phones every year, etc. The lower my obligated debt, the more freedom I have. Kids are expensive no doubt; another reason to make sure they have some work experience to help pay for themselves while learning to be self supporting.

  7. Doing the right thing is not always professional. There’s a quote out there about how “successful people do what others are not willing to do.” While that may be true, success always comes with a cost. I recall an interview with a woman who, exhausted from never ending business travel, cancelled a speaking engagement on short notice because she was at her breaking point. It was indeed unprofessional and the group relying on her was left in a lurch. Yet, had she gotten on that plane, she would have been one of the victims in the September 11th terrorist attacks. Being the first one at the networking mixer and the last one to leave may benefit business, but often it’s at the expense of something else at home. I’ve learned that doing what’s right for personal well being may mean letting someone else down, and that’s okay.

  8. How to truly “network” effectively. I have learned to network effectively by being on the receiving end of a countless number of disingenuous people asking to “network with me,” and “learn about each other’s businesses,” and “see how we might refer to each other.” It becomes obvious in 2 minutes that all they really want is to sell their product or service to my clients. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the aforementioned approach has to change. The person who is going to get my attention is the one who does their research ahead of time, knows about my business and what I need and what I want before they reach out to me; one only needs to go to my web site or LinkedIn page for 5 minutes to figure that out. And when they do, they are giving me a quality referral before asking me to give them one.

  9. I attract who I am. If I wish to attract clients who are willing to take a risk and bank on themselves, I myself have to be taking risks and banking on myself. If I am not attracting who I want to work with, I’ve learned the answer lies in the mirror.

  10. Meditation is the best mind medicine. I committed to a daily morning meditation practice a few years ago and have learned that it’s not fairy dust woo-woo. It has strengthened the muscle of my inner judgment. My instincts and my ability to make good decisions more quickly that I am not second guessing. Meditation is learning to quiet the inner critic, which allows the voice of the inner knowing to be heard. And I’ve learned that the times I “don’t have time” for it are the times I need it the most and the times I gain the most benefit from it. I’ll never give it up.

  11. What goes around comes around. Dealing with incompetent, unethical people is a very scary thing. I have witnessed people choosing to be manipulative in their business partnerships and dealings only to have those choices swiftly backfire on them. Integrity wins in the end.

  12. Delegate early and often. If I could go back to the beginning, I would hire a part time administrative assistant on day one and taken her/him to my franchise training with me. This is the most important piece of advice I give to anyone launching a business; it will pay for itself ten times over and reduce the opportunity for burnout.

  13. Women need to rethink their relationships with other women. I dare say the glass ceiling and the good ole’ boys club pale in comparison to the woman-to-woman combat and competition that exists in our business culture.

  14. Procrastination is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, what I thought was procrastination or fear was really my gut telling me that moving forward was not right for me. And while I was procrastinating, new information came to light or new opportunities developed that took me in a different and better direction. Here’s where the meditation really helps in discerning between what is fear versus gut direction.

  15. Sometimes good things have to fall apart so better things can fall together. Marilyn Monroe said this and it’s what I remember when something really stressful is happening in my life and it seems like things are not working the way I want them to despite my very best efforts. Without fail, there is something better ahead
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  16. The really good stuff is waiting on the other side of risk. Every time I have closed a door, a new one has opened. Every time I have stuck my neck out and tried something new without certainty of the outcome, I gained in some way or found myself changing in a positive way. And scarier the risk is, the sweeter the reward.

Read more about our story in the Marietta Daily Journal

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