Every Small Business is a Family Business
As a commercial property manager, I get to observe people working hard to carve out their piece of the pie. I see the struggles and triumphs of start-ups and small businesses. Better yet, I witness the human qualities of small business owners as they create a life for themselves and for their families. After years of observing entrepreneurs in their natural habitat I have come to the conclusion that every small business is a family business. Traditionally, a family business is defined as “a firm controlled primarily by a family and in which at least two family members work” (Jennings, Breitkreuz & James, 2013, p. 472). This had always been my understanding of a family business prior to managing an office building. I always pictured a father and his sons, a husband and wife or siblings working hard every day, side by side, building a business to pass on to future generations. After getting a closer look, I see that a family business is not about blood lines or lineage. It’s not about heritage or legacy. A family business is about support, solidarity, encouragement, and never hearing the word “no” when you ask for help. A family business is any business that relies on the day to day support of people who care about its success.
One of my favorite experiences of managing an office building is getting to meet the family members of the tenants I serve. I meet them for the first time when the glowing small business owner is giving a tour of the new office. I see them when they stop by to help run an errand or deliver emergency purchases from the office supply store. I see them walking briskly determined to help their loved one reach a deadline. I see them helping move items into a bigger office while smiling about what the expansion will mean. I have seen it many times on their faces, how this is really their business too. They are invested. They have hope for the future success of someone they care about. It is for this reason I assert, that every small business is a family business, maybe not on paper, or on the business letter head, but in the hearts of those who share the dream of a loved one.
Jennings, J. B., Breitkreuz, R. S. & James, A. E. (2013). When Family Members Are Also Business Owners: Is Entrepreneurship Good for Families? Family Relations. 62, 472-489.