The biggest mistake I made in the start up years of my family business was focusing all my efforts and attention on accomplishing goals. You're probably thinking, that's a good thing. I've had successes, and in many ways, broken through barriers for others to follow. However, doing, doing and doing only gets you so far. I study and interview highly successful entrepreneurs and family business owners. The secret to their success is not in the business building itself. It's understanding and remaining true to who they are, and saying to no false identities.
Who Are You?
You are not your business idea. You are not your church, community or civic activities. You are not your current employment. You are not your current financial circumstances. You're not even your role as a spouse, sibling or parent. When all of your activities and roles are stripped away, what's left?
It may be helpful to think about famous entrepreneurs. When you think of Steve Jobs, you may think he is persistent and creative. You may find Oprah Winfrey, transparent and compassionate. Warren Buffet is often thought of as being folksy and intelligent. Think about how their identities are integral to their industries and the marketplace. Jobs was successful because he was so persistent with his board and used his creativity to serve ordinary people. Oprah reigned as the Queen of media because her viewers tuned in every day to watch her share her life in an open and honest way. Buffet engenders trust from investors because they find him to be sincere, due to his folksy personality. What words describe you?
Whose Are You?
Your behaviors conform to who owns you. There's a direct correlation between how you manage projects, make sales presentations (or shy away from them), build your business, and who has authority over you decisions and actions. Children mimic much of their parents' behaviors because they belong to them. Who or what owns you? Is it the love of money? Are you a product of pop culture? Are you owned by the media and all of its trends? Are you a child of God?
You have to be honest with yourself. The good news is that you can make a change, if you no longer want to be owned by something or someone. You can release yourself emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually, depending on your circumstances and what's appropriate. What if changing ownership was the one thing you needed to change in order to start and grow a thriving family business? Is it worth it?
Why Are You Here?
Inside of you is a gift that you're supposed to share with the world through family business. Perhaps you'll share your family wealth by donating to causes you believe in. You may be a family of real estate investors who provide housing to other families in need, in addition to the commercial properties and multi-unit properties you own. You may own a restaurant franchise that's family friendly and welcoming to other families who need a safe place outside of their homes to share a meal and enjoy one another. Your family business may invent technologies that improve the quality of life for all of us.
Family business is not like small business. It's not just about staying in the black on your next profit and loss statement. It's about building legacy for your family as well as making a difference in the world. Don't waste your time, energy and resources on business ideas that are disconnected from who you are and why you're here. You'll know why you're here because the same problems in your daily life, in your community, or in your world disturb your peace. You have the solutions and wonder why others just don't get it. Look for those patterns. They are clues as to why you're here. Then, start and grow your family business to provide the solutions we're waiting for.
I'm a strategist. I'm oriented to take action. However, if you're like me, the biggest business mistake we can make is to get busy doing the wrong things. There's an order to growing your family business. You won't reach your full potential as a family if you approach this backwards. The best way is to build it from the inside out. Know who you are, whose you are, and why you're here.