The personal is professional for local family businesses and the Family Business Association (FBA) – Vancouver Islands helps them reconcile the unique challenges that this combination creates.
“You don’t just step away from your family business and your co-workers,” says FBA president Stewart Story of Story Construction. “They are also family members. So there is a whole different set of dynamics, which can be very special.”
A. Bakr Ibrahim and Willard H. Ellis, who have written extensively about Canadian family businesses as academics, define a family business as one “in which at least 51 per cent of the business is owned by a single family; and at least two family members are involved in the management of the business. In addition, transfer of leadership to the next generation is anticipated.”
While this definition does not enjoy unanimous support among scholars, it nonetheless describes the unique dualism that defines family businesses.
Or as Story puts it: “If I am having a challenge working with a family member, I have also got to see them on Sunday for dinner. So you approach everything a little different when it is family…the dynamics are a little bit cloudy because of the family relationship.”
Enter the Family Business Association. It formally emerged in May of this year out of the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise (CAFE) founded 15 years go.
Proposed changes by CAFE that Story says would have led to a loss of local autonomy prompted local family businesses to form their own organization.
“It is a very supportive environment, where you get perspective from different people,” says Story.
“This is not an organization where you are selling to other members – it is more sharing in your experiences to help your business grow and be successful.”
The current membership roll of FBA – Vancouver Island includes 65 family businesses and 15 advisor businesses. Members range in size and across all sectors. They include among others transportation (Wilson’s Transportation), construction (Don Mann Excavating, Story Construction), retail (Bolen Books), property management (Proline Management Ltd), health (Coastal Roots Health) and tax specialists (Rinald Tax Advisory).
“We are a good representation of the private business employers in the Vancouver Island area,” says Story. FBA-Vancouver Island is also a local reminder of the prominent role that family businesses play across Vancouver Island specifically – membership stretches across the length of the Island – and in the Canadian economy generally.
Multi-generational family businesses create many ties and connections within local communities, says Story, who started his construction career working for his now-retired father and before being his partner for five years in Story Construction, a prominent local firm with up to 40 employees founded in 1983.
“My dad has worked in town for 30 years and lots of people will come to me and say ‘Oh, I have worked with your dad a long time ago,’” he says. “There is a pride working in a family business. You have been
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…around for generations and it is something to be proud of.”
For all of their perceived challenges, scholars have also found that family businesses create many competitive advantages. They include high levels of employee commitment and motivation, flexible, informal and faster decision-making and a common goal.
“There is a lot of trust in family business,” says Story.
Running a family business can also open up new personal insights not available in other professional environments.
“I have gotten to know my father in a whole different way through the dynamics of us running a business together,” he says. “My wife and I work together. Even though some people think that might be very difficult to do, for us it works. We enjoy building something together and working on it.”
To learn more about the Family Business Association – Vancouver Island visit www.familybusinessassociationvi.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org