My parents unceremoniously eloped. My mother, a debutante from Beverly Hills, and my father the child of a blacksmith. Their marriage wasn’t met with the sort of celebration most expect. A differing of backgrounds and religions left my maternal grandmother unhappy and she made her disapproval known.
My parents started their meager married life with my father launching his career in a burgeoning and exciting computer science industry. A relatively unknown field at the time, it was considered risky to enter a business that was looking to put a computer, something nobody understood, into every household. My father knew that his affluent and wealthy mother-in-law would never allow his wife and three children go hungry or end up homeless even if she didn’t like her son-in-law.
This sense of security, without actual financial wealth, provided my father with the ability to make risky career choices. Knowing that his family would always be cared for my father stayed in an industry that was known for lay-offs, bankruptcies and mergers. As a child we would joke that if my dad came home early from work, he must have lost his job. We moved across the country as my father hopscotched through companies and jobs, leapfrogging himself over others.
When my husband and I got married we started our careers working on the internet, a new industry that introduced websites to a world that knew nothing about them. My father made us the same promise that was made to him, we would never go hungry and we would never be homeless. At times, as we too have faced lay-offs and job losses, it would have been nice to have had half a million dollars sitting in a bank account but the security of knowing that if we NEEDED the money we could ask for it provided a sense of security without also making us complacent.
It is easy as a parent to want to give our children everything, to make their lives easier than what we experienced. As family business owners you want your child to benefit from your hard work but is that best for your child? Ambition, drive, passion, and focus all come from a place of necessity. When you MUST succeed you DO succeed. A parent can provide a safety net, a soft place to land, but a parent should not shield their child from failure. The loss of a job, or even the fear of it, is a positive driving force that propels us towards being our best selves. It is the facing and overcoming of these obstacles that build self-esteem, confidence and wisdom. And these attributes are the very keys to becoming a strong leader in any family business.