Editors Blog


Taking Care of Business: A Family Divided

September 25, 2007
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One aspect of a family-owned-and-operated business that doesn’t get much play in trade magazines is the negative side of that structure.

But how many families want to share their seedy secrets and bitter battles? I haven’t met a one yet, unless they have appeared on “Jerry Springer” or had their DNA tested by Maury Povich. People don’t want to air dirty family laundry amongst their peers in the trade.

However over the years, I have heard stories - off the record - that could probably fill up some good dime novels and reality TV shows. Nothing earth shattering, but interesting anyway.

I communicated with an anonymous contractor recently who had been having some problems with his dad, trying to agree on how to run the family business. This is not uncommon. Young people today are of the high-tech generation and the pre-baby boomers (and some actual baby boomers) are not up with technology nor do they care to learn this “new fangled stuff.”

Dad liked it when he had his customers’ names on 3x5 index cards and business contacts on his telephone Rolodex (remember those?). Dad doesn’t want to carry a Blackberry, unless it was a bunch of blackberries he bought at the roadside fruit stand. Oh sure, it’s OK to keep in contact with the office using the two-way or cell phone. But I bet that Dad still harkens back to the days when a CB radio or roadside telephone booth was his mode of communication.

(The author sighs.) Ah, the good old days.

Junior wants nothing of that prehistoric drivel. He wants his iPhone, Bluetooth, and/or palm-sized wireless laptop. He needs instant communication (not to be mistaken for instant gratification). Being in touch 24/7 is the only way to succeed in business.

Maybe.

But Dad will always be servicing his generation of customers who think like him while junior will always have his own generation of “techie” customers. Their worlds will continue to collide until the dinosaurs have been driven from the land, i.e., died of old age.

For now, let the family battles continue. I’ll keep waiting for someone to invite me to the show.
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