Advertising, Business, Marketing, Signage

The Pros and Cons of Running a Family Business (Part 2)

In the previous blog, we left off with the first set of pros and cons of running a family business, which was the dilemma of a sense of responsibility sometimes turning into resentment towards feeling obligated.  Hopefully, becoming aware of the likelihood of these problems arising will increase our ability to recognize them when we see them, and handle them in the best way we can.

Before diving into the next set of pros and cons, it may be interesting to recall some of the greatest NBA dynasties.  There’s the Celtics and Lakers of old, the Celtics and Lakers of new, the Bulls of the 90’s and, the one we’ll focus on, the Lakers of the 2000’s.  The Los Angeles Lakers, with three championships won in a row from 2000-2003, and athletes like Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Shaquille O’Neil, and Kobe Bryant, were a force to be reckoned with, and for a while they were the team to beat.

Why go into to detail about a NBA team when we are talking about family businesses?  Believe it or not, there is a point I am trying to make other than bragging about my Laker knowledge (but let’s be honest, the only reason I know anything at all about this team is because at the time, I was old enough to care about the sport and young enough to have enough time on my hands to really pay any attention to professional sports).  The LA Lakers are a prime example of a team who struggled to unify on the court while strongly disliking each other outside of the game.  Perhaps, it may have already become obvious to some that I am talking about two players in particular, who happened to be arguably, the most talented athletes on the team (with the exception of one when it came to his free throws).  I am of course, referring to Shaq and Kobe.

Years after they played together, it came out that the two actually couldn’t stand each other; so much so that they didn’t even want to autograph the same ball.  That’s basically saying I despise you so strongly, that not only do I personally not want to be anywhere near you, but I don’t even want my signature to be anywhere near yours.  That is some intense hatred.

Then how come we didn’t know anything about it until after the fact?  Well, there is a reason we had no idea: they determined that is was more important to put their feud aside and play as a team in order to be victorious; and for a long time, they were.

A family business might do well to learn from and follow in their lead.  Let’s keep this in mind as we move onto the second set of pros and cons.

Pro: Working as a Team

As a family, chances are you know each other extremely well.  Each other’s strengths and weaknesses are usually common knowledge, which can be a huge benefit to a group of people who are trying to come together to complete a common goal.  You know who you can count on to get certain jobs done, and who will need some help in other areas.

My siblings and I fit this description perfectly.  We, like many siblings, have grown up together, and have plenty of inside jokes (mostly from our favorite TV shows and movies),  can understand what the other is thinking just by the look on our faces, and know who to go to for whatever areas we might need help in.  Need someone to encourage you to be more caring?  Go to my sister.  Struggling to make a decision?  My brother will listen to you for hours if that’s what you need.

This knowledge can easily be carried over to your business.  Things like communication and talent are aspects that most companies have to come to understand about their employees over a period of time.  For a family business, this is known before the doors are even open.

Con: Competitiveness

However, with this understanding of your “teammates” comes an edge of competition.  This is especially true for a family, who already deals with this issue outside of the business world.

Can you say sibling rivalry?  It is a rather unfortunate part of any family dynamic which is usually overcome with age.  The children grow up to lead separate lives, with different careers and their own families; there’s no room to compete.  But put these same siblings in a business together, and all those old insecurities are likely to make their reappearance.

Furthermore, there is also competition between parents and their children as well.  Because they are related, parents and children often have a similar skill set.  When bringing them into your business, it can often feel like somebody is trying to take your place, and there is a worry that they may be able to do the job better than you.  This can lead to jealousy, anger, and resentment; problems that can take a team down if they are not dealt with.

A Solution

Although, there is almost no way to avoid having these problems appear at some point in your family business, we know they can be overcome.

Again, look at the Lakers.  They all had a shared objective: Win!  They knew that if they let their personal issues affect them when it came time to play, they would never be the great team they came to be.  They had to make the conscious decision that success was more important than petty rivalries.

Not to say that there are not reasons for feeling like you have to compete with your family.  It can be hard to shake off those old feelings that have followed you from your youth.  Maybe there is justification for the way you feel, but it is best to try as hard as you can to leave these struggles off the court, or in the business’s case, outside of the office.

Instead, make the common goal of your business to succeed.  Appreciate each other’s strengths and try to help each other with your flaws.  Understand, as a group, as a business, and as a team, that everyone will try their best to bring a sense of teamwork to the table, and not a sense of rivalry.

© Landmark Signs Inc. 2011

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Advertising, Business, Marketing, Signage

The Pros and Cons of Running a Family Business (Part 1)

There is an age old adage that warns: do not mix business with family!  Perhaps the original informant of this advice knew a thing or two about running a family business.  Issues like greed, jealousy, and resentment are likely to rear their head in almost any business; it is after all a competitive environment.  However, when dealing with family, these are even more likely to be trigged since each family is likely to bring their own special set of personal disputes and supposedly “forgotten” angers to the job.

Yes, there are have been multiple failings of family businesses who have not been able to handle the pressure of working with each other and then being forced to sit down together for a Thanksgiving dinner.  Despite all the hazards of working with one’s relatives, there have been many success stories.  Take for example the Trump Organization, who has built up an extremely well-known brand that is associated with the height of wealth and luxury.  Started by Donald Trump, three of his children now are involved in the prosperous corporation.  Or the Maloofs, whose company is comprised of five siblings; they have managed to effectively continue what their father started by managing a casino, a record label, a sports team, and even a skateboard competition. Obviously, it can be done, and done well.

Generally, individuals can work on their personal weakness by understanding what their weaknesses, as well as their strengths, actually are.  I believe this too, is an all-important step to running a family business.  By being aware of what it is that may threaten to tear your business apart and acknowledging the positive aspects of working with your loved ones, a company can learn how to move forward with their business in the most efficient way possible.  I give you, what I consider to be, the pros and cons of running a family business.

Pro/Con Number One

“Do I WANT to be here or do I HAVE to be here?”

Pro: A Sense of Responsibility

Motivation is a key factor in accomplishing almost any task that not only a company, but an individual takes on.  There has to be something pushing one forward and encouraging him/her to keep working despite the obstacles that will most certainly be faced along the way.

Working for your family business automatically provides you with a reason to put your best foot forward, even in the most difficult of circumstances because after all, it is your family we’re talking about.  What can motivate you more than knowing that you have people you love counting on you?

For many, it is the very same business they are now working for, that as they were growing up put food on their tables, a roof over their heads, and clothing on their backs.  In our case, Landmark Signs was founded by my father and mother.  It was this business and their hard work that provided my siblings and me with everything we needed, not to mention the comfort that comes from trusting that we would always be provided for.  As an adult now working for my parents, how can I not be willing to do whatever I can to contribute to our company?  There is pride in knowing that I can give back to a business that has given me so much.

Con: Feeling Obligated

Nevertheless, there is a downside to a feeling of responsibility: it can often turn into resentment that one is being forced rather than choosing, or even wanting, to work for their family business.

Perhaps some in the family business may find themselves in a position of originally being compelled to help out their family when they took the job, but now feel like they have to continue working there no matter what.   They might even believe they are trapped in job they have discovered they hate.   If this is the case, then the obvious answer is to quit.  Go make your own way; find something you love and are passionate about.

That idea does make sense in theory, however making it a reality is not always that simple. It’s a lot easier to walk away from a company that has only known you since your hiring, and has given you nothing outside of the work world.  Walking away from your family job can often seem like walking away from your family.

A Solution

Does it really have to be one or the other?  Not exactly; there are many times in life when people go through fazes of happiness or sadness.  Just because you aren’t in joyful mood, doesn’t mean you should walk away from what you are doing.  Likewise, times of contentment don’t always imply that you are exactly where you need to be and that you will always be satisfied if you stay put.

In order to give a family business the best chance of succeeding, it is wise to keep in mind that feelings of responsibility can often become feelings of obligation.  By accepting that not all of your family will want to jump on board and join you in your venture, allows those who are participating, or are thinking about participating, to believe they are doing what they want to do, not what they have to do.

Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with thinking that you owe it to your family to help out; it is respectable to be compelled to give back.  Instead of feeling constrained by this sense of duty, it may be helpful to embrace it.  Who knows, you may end up working at a job you love, with people you love.

© Landmark Signs Inc. 2011

Make sure to check back soon for “Pros and Cons of Running a Family Business (Part 2)”

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Advertising, Business, Marketing, Signage

Should self-service dominate the business world?

In the past year, our company, Landmark Signs, has undergone several major changes including a new and bigger office space, redesigning our logos, and trying to streamline and organize the way we do business.  With these changes, we have had to analyze our marketing approach and ultimately decide what type of company we want to be.  Because we are able to do such a wide variety of signs, this has been difficult for us to do.  We worry that focusing on one type of client may limit us and leave us without enough business to support ourselves, while trying to take care of too many clients may lead us to not delivering the quality products we know we can produce.

This past week we met up with a potential client, a high-end boutique, Zadig & Voltaire, out in West Hollywood.  They have stores all over Paris and London, and are very well known overseas.  But for whatever reason, they have not had the same amount of success in California as they have in Europe.   I thought this may have something to do with the fact that their sign was not very noticeable, and that maybe customers were simply passing them by because they did not know they were there. I felt certain that with more attention, they could be very successful because their merchandise was trendy and fashionable, just what LA loves.

After this meeting, this led us to ask ourselves, what should be the priority of Landmark Signs?  Obviously, we need to take care of our customers and provide for ourselves.  Without money, the business could not continue, and without satisfied customers, no one would want to work with us.  However, is the self-serving attitude really the best way to go?  Is it all about us, and how much money we make, and what we get out of the deal?  Or should we turn our attention to the type of clients who need us and the service we offer?  Shouldn’t it be about what we can do for them?  Maybe the reason we have not been able to decide what the best direction for our company is, is because we have been focusing too much on how we might profit off of our decision.

When we look at a company like Zadig & Voltaire, one that truly has a quality product, but just isn’t getting noticed enough, it makes us wonder if perhaps these types of clients should be our priority.  That’s what a sign is after all, a way to get noticed.  It tells passers-by a little something about your company, based on the design you choose, where your store is, and what type of store you are.  If this is our business, if this is what we do, then why wouldn’t we want our clients to be the ones who deserve to get noticed?  Not every job will make us as much money as it would if we chose to only work with the “big guys,” that’s true, but don’t the “big guys” already have enough attention?  At the end of the day, once our sign is installed, our client is finally getting the recognition they deserve, and we have delivered a product that does all we promised it would, then shouldn’t that be enough?

© Landmark Signs Inc. 2011

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