Playing With Pinks
When I was 13 I counted and filed “pinks”. Let me explain… back in the day we used a paper invoice that came in three parts. White to the client, yellow to the file and pink to ME! Are you kidding me!? A kid doesn’t want to be responsible for a mound of pinks she could barely see over. (I was 4’6″ until the Summer of Grade 12 when I grew just under a foot.) I was responsible for putting the pinks in alpha order, double checking the math (I was failing at math) and as I got older – eventually posting them to our accounting system. Our legal services were high in volume, low in cost so there were a lot of “pinks”. We had a client roster of over 200 proudly serving local law firms, banks and real estate companies, not bad for a guy from the Goodyear Tire Factory. Our monthly stack of pinks were huge, a great testament to my parents’ commitment to excellence and outstanding customer service. Bad news for a kid who didn’t get the value of the huge stacks of “pinks” looming in the corner of the “tv room”.
Laying A Strong Foundation – Family Work Ethic
Our dinner conversations sometimes involved those “pinks” and over time I grew accustomed to my parents’ steady conversation about “the business”. Although our business had a physical location, our business followed us into our home.
I watched my Dad work long hours, emotionally and physically. At one point “the business” gave him ulcers and kept him pacing the floor at night. My Mum worked a day job at times while continuing to support my Dad in the business. Mum was the financial wizard and Dad was all about connection and relationship. Together they were a great team. I watched, I learned.
Succession Begins – Ready Or Not, Here It Comes
Over the years I made friends with those “pinks” and grew really fond of them. Especially when I bought into the business and finally had a stake in the game. Oh how our relationship changed as did my relationship with my parents. With the stroke of a pen, the exchange of shares, handshakes, many meetings with accountants we were now business partners and overnight our family dynamic changed. We weren’t prepared for what lay ahead nor the shift in our individual objectives to the business. Things got serious, intense at times as both generations forged ahead with their own appropriate agendas and objectives. Until… what my parents wanted/needed from the business flew immediately in the face of what we wanted/needed from the business in order to sustain it. Both of us were right and eventually we found a happy balance however the experience was unpleasant and now from complete responsibility I can see my parents’ perspective.
Child or Business Partner?
Since hindsight is 20/20 what I see now is that I unconsciously slipped into the role of child rather than business partner. Conversations occurred as personal rather than strategic. I couldn’t see it at the time, I was in the weeds of it all. It is a good lesson for anyone involved in a family business. A self check of where I was speaking from would have supported me to shift back to business partner, “Am I speaking from business partner or family member?”. “What would I say right now if I were to shift my perspective to business partner?” “What works for the business?” Staying focused on the long term goals of the business is incredibly important to ensure that decisions that are being made are still on the success trajectory.
Stay tuned for more tales of our family business.