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All in the family

So, you’re thinking of starting a family business?  Good for you, and, good luck to you!  Our family has had the good fortune of owning and operating our business – McGuckin Hardware in Boulder – since 1955.  We are well into our fourth generation of family members who work at the store, and while we do have our moments, we wouldn’t change the outcomes and experiences for anything.

Here are some of the things we’ve learned through the years that might be helpful to you as you strike out on your own family venture:

Value everyone’s input
It’s hard to avoid the fact that matters involving a family business will come up constantly, whether it’s during work hours or at Thanksgiving Dinner.  Accept this fact, and, welcome it with open arms.  Some of the best ideas will come-up in casual settings, and everyone’s input and thoughts should be considered.  The interaction of ideas will only galvanize the business as a whole.  For example, the patriarch of our family, “Grandpa Dave”, has always been a stalwart for one-on-one, customer service.  Mallory, his 20 something granddaughter has opened his eyes to the value of a more “social” approach to working with customers, via FaceBook and Twitter.  As a result of their meeting-of-the-minds, the store is finding a nice marketing blend that was created by two separate generations of our family.

Never mind the S-O-B comments
Owning a family business will create some resentment.  We call them “S.O.B.” comments (Son-of-the-Boss), but there’s really nothing to do other than let them roll off your back and move on.  If you’re a smart business owner, you’ll make wise decisions in regards to who is doing the best job to move your company forward, whether it’s a family member or not.  Our approach has been to have each generation of our family start with entry level positions and learn every aspect of the business possible.    Our son stocked shelves, unloaded trucks and swept floors and proved himself on multiple levels prior to moving-up to a management position.  Regardless of his name, he is a valuable employee who strives to prove himself every day.  Make sure your family members understand that their performance will determine their position in the company.

“Grow” the family
One of greatest outcomes of having a family owned business is that your family grows.  A culture is created that carries over to other team members, and a family-environment is created that carries throughout the company.  We have numerous employees who have been with us for 20, 30 even 40 years.  They are absolutely a part of our family, and a reason for the success of the store.  Our customers appreciate the atmosphere that has been created, and will come-by the store just to say “hello”.  It all contributes to an environment that people enjoy working and shopping in, even to the point that often times they’d rather be here than anywhere else.

Stay true
As is the case with any business, there will be trials and tribulations with a family-owned business.  As long as you stay true to your vision and keep your goals in mind, nothing can match the strength and support you’ll find from your fellow family members.  You’ll discover that the positive attitude and confidence will spill-over to others, and make the work you do a true labor of love.

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Barry & Vicki Hight

Barry Hight and Vicki Hight are husband and wife, and president and office manager of the family-owned McGuckin Hardware in Boulder.

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