Sunday, June 16, 2013

Family owned

You see it on organic foods and on the advertising that is trying to attract an environmentally sympathetic, locally grown, "healthy" type audience.

And for sure it's a code word for not being big business or a large conglomerate.

But has anyone actually thought this through?

Can you imagine working efficiently and successfully with your family members?  Isn't it hard enough to get together for special events—a shared meal during holidays, a birthday or anniversary, wedding or funeral?  Can you imagine actually having not only to put up with everyone day after day, but know your livelihood is in their handsand firing them may not be an option?

Instead of going to HR or your supervisor about a performance concern as a professional and colleague, you end up feeling nine years old and tattling to Daddy about a sibling.  "Johnny just picked his nose! Make him stop!" "Did not!" "Did so!"

Well, you get the drift.

And what about the opportunity for personal retaliation on the home front for a real or imagined issue at the workplace.  "I'm sorry, but you're not getting invited to Thanksgiving because you didn't get those reports in on time.  Now do your homework or you can't go out and play…"

Work relationships are challenging.  Family relationships are complex.  Imagine combining them! The mind boggles.  OK, yes, I'm sure family owned businesses can work--indeed do work.  But it certainly doesn't seem easy!  And to present it proudly, as if it were an asset, simply boggles my mind.  All I can think of is 'imagine if Thanksgiving dinner were a Board Meeting!  OMFG!'

What is the deal?

It seems like the words "family owned" reads that it's small and everyone has some kind of emotional commitment to the business beyond profit.  And those things in turn are supposed to mean that it's a superior product compared to a business focused on efficiencies and profit  And that, in turn, means it's likely worth a premium price (for questionable value add).

But I have to say I am very fond of profit.  The profit motive is clean, clear and lacks hypocrisy.  Its consistent, sustainable and perhaps most importantly, focused on the customer.  For-profit companies have to create something that people actually want to spend money on to get.   Profit is a demanding proof-of-concept!

Family migrates you away from a focus on profit and efficiency, and adds an emotional component that may certainly have some upsides, but certainly also has some significant downsides.

Why is nepotism not a good thing, but a family business is something to celebrate?  Doesn't that strike anyone as…odd?

It's all about relationships. And how they relate.

Sign me:

Love my family--but wouldn't want to work for 'em....

Isabel Swift

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