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The Family Business …or the business of family

The family business doesn’t need to be an empire like the Shaws, the Molsons, the Westons or the Southerns. But there is consensus that the family business is a unique dynamic.

The good news is that more than 80 per cent of all businesses in Canada are small to medium-size businesses. A majority are family owned and critical to the Canadian economy.

Unfortunately, only 30 per cent of Canadian family businesses survive into the second generation and 12 per cent are still viable into the third generation.

“It’s all about the family business versus the business of family,” says the focused and personable Jodena Rogers, vice president of corporate services at Emerald Management and Realty and EO Calgary member. “But relationships and communication are the most important aspects to family business success.”

The ‘Emerald family’ consists of Gary (father) who founded the business 40 years ago, Mary (mother), Jodena and her sister Laureta.

“As far as I can remember, I always wanted to work in the family business. It was my dream and something I grew up with. One of the most important parts of a family business is a respectful, professional environment with distinct boundaries. Separate business, family and personal relationships. Most people don’t know we are a family business,” she explains.

The successful family business comes with certain musts, according to Paul Valentine, general manager at Valentine Volvo and EO Calgary member. “Staff and clients must realize that the family has earned the right to work there. If they can’t do the job, the business loses staff and client respect. Family members must be active and involved.”

Valentine Volvo is a third-generation, Calgary family business that prides itself on selling more new and certified, pre-owned Volvos than anyone in Canada.

“Emotions are bound to be an aspect of a family business,” he admits. “But addressing things openly and early can ensure that emotions don’t run wild. The family, as a whole, must always be at the centre of all decisions.

”For Brittney Ramsay, president of the dynamic Britt Land Services, with an exceptional reputation for land asset management and an EO Calgary member, it’s all about trust and communication.

“My father Ray started the business almost 30 years ago. Now my sister Breanne and I are building this company and our team to live and breathe like a family. It’s all based on trust, engaging in constructive conflict, expecting commitment, embracing accountability and driving results – things that are also really important to what makes a family solid.”

She points out the positive that making decisions in a family business is actually easier. “We can have the tough conversations, respectfully, and then make a plan of action and commit to it. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and help or give each other a little push, if needed.”

Human nature will always create a stigma about family members in family businesses. “Family must work harder than other staff and prove themselves every day. I am not entitled to be here,” Rogers emphasizes. “I work hard to earn respect with leadership, collaboration, expertise and knowledge.”

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