I probably have an advantage in small business that you just don’t have. I grew up in a family that owned a small business. Okay, there’s nothing you can do about it anymore than I can do anything about being 5 foot 6 inches tall. I’d love to be taller but it is never going to happen. I’m just not Paul Bunyan and never will be. So if you didn’t grow up in a family that had a small business, I’ll give you some insight.
It’s a family affair
The Raffel family was in the furniture business in Milwaukee from the 1930s to the 1980s. Yes, my grandfather had the audacity to start a business during the Great Depression. This is never lost on me. There’s probably nothing I have yet or will ever face in business like the economic conditions he overcame to start and grow a business that would last more than 50 years.
Grandpa Harry worked well into his 90s and I’m not talking about the show up at the office kind of work but the meaningful keep the business going kind of work. When he was younger and just starting out, they couldn’t afford much help. He unloaded trucks, created showroom displays, sold and co-ran the business with my grandma. When my father and uncle were old enough, they helped out.
From story to reality
Those are all just stories to me. By the time I came along, my father and uncle were running the business and it had expanded to multiple locations. One of my earliest childhood memories is being at the grand opening of one of those locations. It was no small affair. There were flags and fanfare. It was a party as far as I was concerned. I spent a lot of my childhood hours in that building and often begged my father to let me tag along with him on weekends.
I helped out wherever I could and tried to stay out of the way (I’m pretty sure I failed at that more than I succeeded). By the time I was 16, I was helping on the sales floor during big events. When I was 18, I was a full-time salesperson until I went away to college. That experience allowed me to get a great-paying job selling furniture while my friends flipped burgers.
The business was everywhere
Dad worked a lot of hours. His only day off until I was a teenager was Thursday. He worked every weekend and holiday except when we went on vacation. Is it any wonder I work most weekends on blog posts and such and don’t even think twice about it? I can assure you it’s not possible for me to work in as hard and focused a fashion as my role model did. After dinner, he’d sit in his chair half watching TV and review financial statements or legal documents. Running the store is just what he did. On top of that, he managed to be very active in the chamber of commerce for the community the business was based in.
That’s what I grew up watching: a self-motivated, hard-working man taking care of his family, his business and his employees. Perhaps the small business success formula is that simple.
Over in Kitchen Table Companies we talk about the small business lifestyle all the time. Just click on the link below if you want to learn more about KTC.