Business and the Grownup Table
Their ancestors came to America from Italy and nearly one-hundred years ago, they created an organization to celebrate their culture and preserve traditions. The Italian Sons and Daughters of America hold social activities and events, strive for a deeper understanding of Italian studies and its language, and recognize various Italian American achievements and contributions.
In the 1950’s, my mother-in-law, Mary and her family founded an ISDA lodge in Cleveland. My wife, Rosemary, her siblings, and cousins grew up in the periphery that surrounded the lodge and its various events. Approaching retirement age 30 years ago, Mary and her fellow members wanted to groom the next generation for lodge leadership.
There was one problem: they had never given the younger folks, then in their 30’s, a seat at the grownups’ table. With families and responsibilities of their own, the next generation lacked the time, interest, and desire to move the lodge forward.
Where had the lodge leaders gone wrong? Why couldn’t they convince the next generation to keep the lodge alive?
Simply, they had never given Rosemary and her peers a seat at the grownups’ table.
The Grownup Table in Your Business
A very good friend of mine worked as a commercial service manager for a small company. In 18 years, he was never given access to the financial data in his department, much less the company.
While this uncivilized, primitive, and barbarous form of management has significantly diminished in the last decade, a well-intentioned manager / owner might overlook invaluable business input from unsuspecting sources.
For instance, there are many service technicians with whom I’ve conversed over the years who could take an owner to school on topics like economics, marketing, and financial planning.
Create an Advisory Board
In order to take advantage of untapped knowledge and harbor a sense of contribution, create an advisory board consisting of coworkers from all departments. If you are a small contractor, open up the board to all interested.
There is a fair amount of art in moderating an advisory board. Consider hiring an experienced person until you can get the hang of it.
The Grownup Table in Your Family Business
From the preteen years of sweeping the shop to the teen years of driver, field, office, and warehouse helper, it’s often difficult for our youth to take us seriously in roles outside of father and mother. To cease continuing this trend, assign an experienced coworker to shepherd and guide your kids.
When mature enough, start to include your children in business matters. Begin with small steps. If you are initiating a marketing effort, enlist them to help gather information. If engaged in a business meeting with a vendor, allow your children to monitor it. Have them ride along with a top comfort advisor. Once a child turns 18, he or she should attend trade conferences with you even if, at the moment, your child is not considering going into the business.
This is simply because there are many life and business lessons to be learned that will remain with your children all of their lives. In addition, you’ll be seeding the workforce with folks who know how professional and sophisticated our industries can be.
One of the most powerful motivators in business today is giving your coworkers attention. A seat at the grownups' table is one way to do that. Everyone deserves to have his or her voice heard.
When on the road, remember, those behind you are ahead of others. Be that leader who leads with light and creates a legacy of illumination.