Family business…. Business family

Today, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the inspiring Maimah Karmo in the context of providing insights to business owners in the greater Washington, DC area.

Maimah is the President & CEO Of the Tigerlily Foundation, the publisher of Bliss Magazine, the voice behind the Pure Bliss podcast, a mother, a breast cancer survivor, and much more.

She asked me to speak about one of my favorite topics, family business.

When I tell people I work in family business, I get a wide array of reactions and questions…

“Oh, wow, how do you do it?”

“Well, that must be really hard!”

“I could never work with my family.”

“I wish I had a family business!”

I love the opportunity to work with my family. It’s not always perfect, but I would not trade it for anything. Here are some of the insights I shared on my interview today.

What I love about working with my family:
– There are no politics (or less).
– We do not question our motivation: we all, in the end, want the family business to grow and prosper (even if we may disagree with the how).
– Work feels more personal (some may say this is a con, but I love this aspect so much!).
– I now know my family (Mom, Dad, sisters, uncle…) in a work capacity, at a different level than “just” a sister.
– Working with my family has made me feel closer to them.

The challenges about working with my family include:
– There is no family time that doesn’t involve some work conversation; it becomes a lifestyle more than anything else.
– Family dynamics tend to seep into work dynamics (for example, my oldest child behavior is sometimes very visible in my work interactions…)
I hear stories from other people working in family business, who share with me that working together destroyed the family; I suppose this is a con, but I do believe that with respect, love, and some best practices, this is a very avoidable con.

Our family business best practices include:
– We work on the idea until we all agree: if we disagree it’s because the idea we are debating is not yet right enough or good enough.

– The above notwithstanding, we also agree to disagree (then the project or idea we disagree on does not get executed).
– Respect always – even more so because we are family members.
– We each have our areas we work on / in, so we aren’t all involved in the same thing, and we each have “ownership” of something.
– We actively work on our family business dynamics and frameworks, as this in itself is an important success factor. For example, all members of the family involved in day to day operations attended a 4-day family business seminar at INSEAD, one of the best family business experiences I have ever had.
– We have family meetings every other year to update those family members who are not working in the business, so they feel informed, involved, and cared for. This also enables us to benefit from their “outside the business” ideas and perspectives, which is quite invaluable.

– Finally, my sisters and I have a monthly Skype meeting to talk life, work, family business, and everything in between. That communication helps us be better sisters, and better business partners. In the end, whether it’s business, family, or family business, it really is all about communication.

Mid-Year Reflections…

I am a planner, a list maker, a goal tracker. I start new years with a list of goals, some new, some left over from the previous year. And usually, sometime in the middle of the year – typically during my vacation in Greece, or around Labor Day weekend – I re look at my goals and set myself up for success for the fall.

This year, my mid-year reflection happened this past Saturday, August 18. I was in Magnano in Riviera (Italy), where my father is from, a place I have not visited in over 20 years. I was there with my husband, my three sisters and their partners and children, and with my father – per his request, to celebrate his 70th year of life, and have our annual Polla Family Council meeting. Such a family gathering, and such a birthday, were conducive to reflection.

So, I reflected.

The first few months of 2018 were challenging, for reasons I still had a hard time processing. I acknowledged this to myself and thanked myself for getting past it. I thought about a note I made for myself at the end 2017 about strengthening my tolerance for tension. I certainly can check that off my list.

I thought about what I am most proud of professionally, namely continuing to grow Alchimie (look for some new distribution this fall), launching our newest product (Advanced retinol serum), continuing to lead Neill Fulfillment.

I reflected on my relationships and the people closest to me. Am I contributing to their happiness, to their growth, to their personal and professional development? These goals are important for the rest of 2018 (and beyond).

I reaffirmed my commitment to my self-care and reminded myself how part of the reason I started feeling better late Spring was more running, more water, more sleep, more reading. I re-commit to ending the year healthy and strong, physically and emotionally.

I thought about some very specific goals I have yet to achieve: redoing our YouTube videos; working on my book idea; reaching 10,000 Instagram followers for Alchimie; reading the books remaining on my “Marie Kondo-ed book pile.”

Finally, I think about what I am looking forward to for the rest of the year. These next few days in Italy, maybe becoming a home owner, lots of productive work travel, my god-daughter Jade’s week-long visit, the holiday season.

So much to be grateful for, so much to do, so much to look forward to…

 

It Takes 4 of Us to Make Me Feel Whole

When I turned 40 last October, I asked my sisters for a gift – that they all come to visit me in Louisiana for Memorial Day weekend. And Memorial Day weekend is upon us. I can’t quite describe the feeling of having them all here with me, and I know the weekend is just beginning, but last night’s dinner was perfection. I tried to say thank you… with the following words.

First, thank you to you, Edwin. This weekend would not have been possible without you. You know what I want and don’t want. You knew having my sisters in Louisiana was the best gift ever, and you made it happen. You even bought a new boat and renovated your Hammond kitchen to prepare for “their”’arrival. Thank you. Thank you for loving me so well.

Second, to Bernard. You are the one “plus one” here this weekend, and for this I am forever grateful. Thank you for coming to be moral support for Edwin during the Polla sisters weekend takeover. I am so grateful for you and for how you love Rachel.

Thank you, Stern for being with us, for representing the extended Neill family tonight. Thank you for making the special trip from California just to meet my sisters (J).

To Roxane. You were the first of my sisters to fall in love with Louisiana, a number of years ago. You fell in love with New Orleans. With the boat and the river and the alligators. With Debra’s house which you still think is the most beautiful house you have seen in the world. Thank you for understanding why I love it here. Thank you for coming back. Please tell Guillaume he is missed, but here in spirit.

To Rachel. You host me, us, in Geneva every single time we come. You never say no when I send you my travel dates. You make sure there is champagne and gruyere in the fridge. You always make me feel like I am home. Your hospitality is the kindest and most generous there is. This weekend is a small attempt to say thank you.

To Cyrille. You came back to the US of A. I must admit I stopped believing it would happen. Last time you came to this country it was for also for me. It was to help the Alchimie booth at ISPA 2005 at the Dallas Gaylord (our first ever booth). You hated it. Hated the AC (oops sorry), hated not being able to smoke anywhere, hated working the booth and speaking to people, you hated everything. That was the trade show Edwin and I met at. Thank you for coming for me then. Thank you for agreeing to come back for me now.

Thank you for coming here together so we can show The Polla Sisters to The Neill Brothers. They have no idea what is coming…

Je vous aime. Mes sœurs. Merci.