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By Joshua R. Burkheiser
Owner, iWrite LLC
Interestingly, we have been celebrating Thanksgiving in this country on the wrong day ever since President George Washington became the first president to proclaim it a national holiday in 1789. That’s right; we are a month off. At least an entire month.
The Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people celebrated the first harvest in October 1621. It lasted three days and was completely different than how we celebrate it today. Our quaint dinner spread, surrounded by family and friends, is a great way to show camaraderie and family values. Still, we often forget what the holiday is all about, which is odd because it is literally in the name.
Business owners are so busy, and you work nonstop. The idea of a 40-hour work week goes by the wayside when you are the lifeblood of your company. Phone calls at night, deals to be made on holidays, and sometimes even super important family events are missed. But our families smile and forgive for the most part because they realize that it takes more to run a business than it takes to have a typically scheduled shift.
For reference, I wrote this blog on October 22; I am unsure when this will be published, but today I was approached by my two children, and they asked what I was doing. I shrugged my shoulders and told them I was writing a blog. They asked if it was for the business, and I nodded and continued to write. Before I realized it, they had already disappeared, and I was left with the realization that it had become so commonplace that they thought of it just as part of who I was and how I fit into their lives. They didn’t complain; they didn’t compete for my attention; they just accepted it.
I am unmarried, but I am dating a great woman who patiently sits through my rants about this and that; it helps that she has a business degree, and I thank her for her patience. That’s my point, I suppose. In the same way, our families have grown to accept the extended hours and incessant business talk without realizing their sacrifice; we can easily forget it.
But what if our family is our business? Family-owned businesses account for 64% of America’s GDP. 64%, that’s astounding! So statistically, if you are reading this, you work with your family, which is a part of all your lives. But there are a few little suggestions I can make in this regard; I would wager to say in any relationship.
First and foremost, communication. Like in any relationship, communication is the lifeblood of the family environment. This comes down to active listening. Those same skills you learned in sales need to be applied to communication. Ask open-ended questions, request clarification, be attentive, summarize, paraphrase, reflect feelings, and ask probing questions. Everything you are supposed to be doing with clients, you should be doing in all your relationships. Now, forewarning, this can come across as a sales pitch if you don’t practice. As a recruiter, I learned this lesson at a young age, and when I attempted to use the same steps, it wasn’t taken very well. After years of employing the same techniques, I come across as more genuine.
Secondly, manage conflict appropriately. I was recently accused of not prioritizing a person in my life. Were they right? Yep. Not purposely, but yes. I could have gaslighted them and thrown it right back in their face about how some things are more important and they shouldn’t be so quick to judge. But the reality was that they were correct. In the same way you anticipate a customer’s conflict with your business, you should apply that to your friends and loved ones. There are several ways to tell a person that you disagree with them. One of them is abrupt, which is often taken poorly, or you can gently lead them to understand your side. Now I need to preface this by saying that if you’re wrong, you’re wrong. It’s ok to say that you are in the wrong. However, if you still feel as if you are correct, remain calm and anticipate what may set them off. Address these issues gently and be willing to listen and empathize with their feelings on the matter.
Honesty, honesty, honesty. Worth saying three times. And that’s where I will leave that aside from mentioning that all aspects of life have ups and downs. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk with our families about them; sometimes, the best ideas come from our families.
Lastly, we need to be thankful. We are blessed. No matter where you are with your business, we are part of the 30.2 million small businesses in the United States that generate more than 38.2 billion in revenue (according to Census.gov). And who has been there through the tough times and the good times? Friends and family.
We must remember that we have a lot to be thankful for this holiday. I can only speak for myself, but I am grateful for my children, friends, loved ones, and for each and every one of you.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!