Explaining &life 18 Jan 2020 12:30 pm

Letters to our children #3

Dear boys, today I want to write to you about running a family business.

You’ve lived through us running our business almost all of your lives. I’m sure you have your own aspects to reflect upon and perhaps we can talk about how you’ve experienced this at some point in the future. I know your mother will want to be a part of that conversation too.

We Messinis’ run family businesses. It takes a heavy toll on our personal relationships. I know you’ve witnessed this. We’ve had high high’s and low low’s and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster hasn’t it? Rollercoasters are supposed to be fun, right? Who would you like sitting next to you on a rollercoaster? Family! Who can you trust more than family?

When we work with eachother and for eachother, the lines are very blurred. Emotions run hot and during the low low’s of business it’s easy to start laying blame on one another.

In running a family business, it’s hard to form a hierarchy, really hard. The family members often cover for eachother but when things get tough it’s inevitable that stress spills over into the home. I’m sorry it does.

I personally, have been both a good and a terrible businessperson. Good in that I can take calculated risks easily and am not afraid to fail, Bad because, too often, emotions take over and too often, I’ve trusted people who’ve stabbed us in the back. Sometimes too, I’ve taken decisions that have made our lives a bit more difficult.

Your mom has been there to protect me and keep me on track and, I hope, I’ve been there for her too. I’ve taught her and she’s taught me. We complement each-other and keep each-other accountable. If one day you join us in a family business, we’d expect the same from you too. I know you’ve often seen us argue and too often things have perhaps gone too far but we never wanted to hurt either of you.

I think our businesses have given us a relatively good quality of life. I think better than if we were employed for another organisation. I think too that you may have gained some knowledge from experiencing our toils too. It’s a fact that children are more likely to be entrepreneurs if their parents were entrepreneurs too. If they were exposed to the challenges and thrills of running a business, they’ll be more likely to be able to spot opportunities and threats.

Once I suggested to your mom that we write a book about how we’ve done this. About what sacrifices we’ve made and what compromises we’ve had to endure so as to help other families avoid our mistakes. We’re still discussing the idea.

Here’s a few ideas we’ve been working on for chapters: (Note, we haven’t done a few of these ourselves but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. If we had, we may have had a smoother ride, I suppose)

Setting boundaries,
Communicating regularly,
Understanding roles and responsibilities,
The business is a business,
The advantages of family businesses vs others,
Treating each other fairly,
Putting things in writing,
Sympathy jobs and avoiding them,
Having clear management lines,
Fresh Ideas from trusted outsiders,
Planning for when someone moves on or is lost,
Having experience outside before joining.

One day we might get to write this book and perhaps you can contribute a chapter or two as the recipients of our flawed parenting.

Thank you for being such wonderful boys.

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