While I do not have any blood relatives as members of my firm making it a more traditional family business, I have always known that my intention for my business was to have it be more than just a company. That’s why best-selling author Daniel Pink’s words resonated so strongly with me during his keynote address at this year’s Vistage International Member and Chair conference in Dallas. As Daniel shared with the nearly 1,100 business owners and chief executives in the room, it’s time to stop saying our companies are like families. They are families!
Pink likened the employment experience to a father giving his daughter away at a wedding. In that moment, that father literally entrusts the future care of his daughter to her new life partner. Similarly, parents do this same thing with their children by entrusting us as leaders to care for and protect their children as long as they are with us.
Maybe this is why the Enron or more recent corporate catastrophes have been so devastating to the human spirit. It’s not the financial meltdown they cause per se. It’s the despicably offensive focus on money and personal gain first rather than care for other people – care for our children – that these egregious leaders demonstrated to the world.
It’s not supposed to be about money and profits. Well, at least not to the detriment of our employees, of our family members. Every business leader – willingly or not – assumes this universal responsibility for other human beings as he or she rises up the ranks. It’s about giving our time and energy to those under our care, not about making more money in spite of them.
I’m proud and honored to share that I have learned this first-hand over the last two years. That’s how long I have been privileged and fortunate enough to have my assistant Jessica steadfastly at my side. She plays such a vital role on our team that we literally call her “Director of Everything Else”. More than that though, whenever the going gets tough for me and I experience those “woe is me moments” as I call them, my mantra and rally cry is, “Do it for Gage!”
You see, Gage is Jessica’s four-year-old son, and as such I consider him to be my extended son. In line with this extended family relationship then, it’s my job to do whatever I can to take care of Jessica so she can keep taking care of him. And for anyone who thinks this is silly, I invite you to consider the tremendous impact my actions and attitudes towards Jessica and Gage have on her performance at work. I’m confident that she is much more productive – and therefore I am much more productive – because of this familial connection we share. It clearly makes a difference in her undying dedication to the company and tireless support for me, and in the end we will both make much more money and in a much more sustainable way than anybody who used to work at Enron or Merrill Lynch or AIG.