All in the Family

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Sometimes, I think that it’s coffee that runs industry across North America.

But in reality, its families that run industry in North America.

And by ‘running industry,’ I am speaking about Family Businesses.

Yes, major corporations have significant impact on our world, but they don’t drive our hearts and motivation for work like the family business does.

As one speaker said at a business conference I attended,

“I have never heard anyone say that they are fond of Head office.”

I have had the opportunity to work for major corporations. My first job was working as salesperson for Procter & Gamble, selling cake mixes and dish soap to grocery stores. There is not a week that goes by that I don’t think about the great things I learned there and appreciate what it did for me.

I remember a man named Lou Pritchett, who had the title of ‘Sales Manager, Western Hemisphere.’ It wasn’t a formal title as much as it was a moniker because Lou held a role greater than any formal position. As I understand it, he was our ‘internal motivational speaker’ and most importantly, a fishing buddy of a nice man who ran a number of leading retail stores across the US at the time. I think his name was Sam…Sam Walton, I believe. Anyhow, I thought it would be nice some day to have the word ‘Hemisphere’ in one of my job titles.

Lou told us.

“Sometimes I lay wake at night, worrying that we think we’ve got it made. We think because we are the 47th largest corporation in the world that we don’t need to work as hard, we don’t need to improve as much, that we know what’s best for our customers and stop listening to them.”

In his speech, I could hear his strong intention to prevent the arthrosclerosis that ran through so many big corporations in the 1980s. Unfortunately my experience was that it had well set in. But nevertheless, at P&G, I learned to get up every day and do my job. I learned from my boss what it was to be a professional and to live up to the ‘promise of a brand.’

But the soul of industry resides in our family businesses. And this is no more profound that what I see in the trucking industry today. I find it’s a ‘whole family affair.’ A Dad and his sons, a son and his mom, a husband and wife, and brother and sister… and even, yes even, a case of a divorced couple. As he said to me ‘oh that tangled webs we weave.’ 

When I talk to our customers, I hear the stories of a driver wanting to change the course of his business, and of his life – a desire to run his own trucking business, or a desire to run his own brokerage – hiring his own drivers and own agents respectively.

They come to me because we have the trucking software and the freight brokerage software that helps them change the course of their business. With an ‘all in one’ software system that helps them track customers, equipment, orders, dispatches, invoices and payables I am able to give them a system that helps them take that leap  in their business………and in their lives. It gives me a sense of mission beyond just making another sale.

Oft times I can hear the stress or resignation in their voices. Usually it’s a wife, sister, mother – the ‘chief administrator’ in the business and in the family home that is trying to keep it all together. Managing an ‘ever growing’ patch of excel spreadsheets and paper files to ensure that customers stay happy, drivers stay satisfied and regulators stay……well, stay away.

Inevitably it becomes a family affair because the demands of running your own business impact the children and the entire family. It was already demanding being a long haul truck driver – away from home for a week or weeks at a time – but now it comes with an added financial overlay. The rewards have gone up……..but so has the risk. It’s funny how it works……..but you can’t have one without the other – just ask the guys on Wall Street!

But for sure its families that runs industry. Helping them grow and flourish is good, not only for our economy, but it is also good for our society in having healthy, happy families.  And in nourishing and helping those businesses become successful we lay the foundation for those companies to break through and create greater impact around the world of commerce.

Remember this. It is important to realize that many of the corporations we see today and accept as major brands began as family businesses and partnerships – at one time they were just trying to scrape by and do something different with their lives, like people in the trucking industry today.

Names like Ford, Penske, Heinz, Benz, Mack………..and, of course, William Procter & James Gamble.

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