Search
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

How and Why

by Ira Bryck

Does your job lack meaning, drive, direction? Do you wonder: "My father loved widgets, but I don't. Oh, well… it's a living!", and then lackadaisically roll another rock up the hill? As the fourth generation in retail childrenswear, I'd sometimes think "If not for me, would kids run around naked?" What's the point? What's the mission?

Businesses need to keep their eye on the ball, but the ball looks different, depending on the game. Profit companies tend to keep their eye on the bottom line, sometimes losing the big picture of "Why we are even doing this?" (I'm sure that even the creators of sliced bread had morale problems from time to time, and that was the greatest thing since movable type).

Non-profits, often mis-identifying themselves as NOT profit, full of zeal for the cause, could stand to realize more that taking in more than you spend gives you resources to fight another day. I have received many calls from consultants to non-profits, asking how to attract private companies as clients- they can't stand working around so many so unaware of the need to run a tight, businesslike organization.

Then there's family businesses, which suffer from their own unique blend of pain, often the result of confused family and business rules and roles. There are family businesses out there who do "treat the business like a business and the family like family," with the family benefiting from owning a business and the business benefiting from being family owned. They are both lucky and talented; they practice both art and science. They work at it, but the process and the results are both intentional and serendipitous.

They understand "take time to work ON the business, not just IN the business." The less fortunate, more harassed population of business families find this an inefficient use of time, with so many fires raging, and such a long way to where you know you need to be. But as French philosopher Henri Bergson said, " Think like a man of action, and act like a man of thought" (his wife had the same expression about women).

Sounds good, but how to? Maybe begin immersing oneself in a flow of ideas, and communing with those who are having those ideas. Talking openly with people who've fallen where you are about to fall, who've gotten back up when you say you can't get up, who demonstrate that bravery doesn't mean you're not afraid, who might not even know all they know and all they can teach others.

The Family Business Center offers this and much, much more. In running your company, it's vital to keep this type of company. There's many hundreds of years of horse sense, street smarts, and experiences available to you in this community of risk takers, strategic thinkers, visionaries, and widget lovers.

One past speaker told our group "there's nothing quite as practical as a good theory." So now you may think- "what a waste of time- what good are theories, when it's time to make the donuts?" The Good is that before you understand why you need the "how to," it helps to have the "how come?" The UMass Amherst Family Business Center offers both. As a wise book of 20,000 Quips and Quotes once said "Success comes from having the proper aim as well as the right ammunition."

As we enter our 7th year of offering this high quality resource, I invite you once more to take a spin around the block. Our product is knowledge, mixed with networking, inspiration, and the voices of experience.

The way to stick your toe in is to come to one dinner forum. Consider our schedule of upcoming events (page 15, or www.umass.edu/fambiz). Give a call (413) 545-1537) to discuss it more- I'd enjoy the opportunity to speak with you, and sit down with to discuss your unique situation, and the good that may happen if you take a very small risk here.

Back to Top