To the team here at ZENTX, there are two senses of the term “family business.” In standard usage, the term refers to a business jointly owned and operated by members of the same family. Thanks to the joint ownership of brothers Mike and Mark Wenz, ZENTX easily falls within this category of “family business.” The brothers work together to make decisions and, as business partners, share in the losses and gains of the company. On top of this, they have the added bonus of being able to employ a number of their family members. There you have it: ZENTX is clearly a family business.
But let’s not forget about the second sense of the term. To us, there’s more to being a part of a family business than just having family members on your team. Having a “family business” also means that you treat all the people on your team as family (regardless of whether or not you’re actually related to them). This sense of “family business” informs the idea behind our seventh core value, Family.
“Family” is an easy word to throw around, and we hear it used a lot. But what does it actually mean? Can it really apply to the context of a business? And what do we mean when we say that we’re all about treating our team members like family? Good questions. I’m glad you asked. Let’s dive in and see what we find.
When we hear the word “family,” there’s a lot of history and personal experience that comes to mind with it. The word can be so loaded with baggage of either the positive or negative kind that getting down to what it really means can take a quite a bit of digging. But let’s set aside any and all connotations for a moment and just take a no-filter look at the word.
For those of you who care, the word “family” comes from the Middle English word “familie.” Now, whether you care or not, this old word is important because of where it came from. Its parent was the Latin word “familia,” which would have been used to refer to a household. In its original usage, “familia” didn’t just include blood relatives but even the servants of a household. That’s because the word carries that idea of people sharing a common dwelling place—of being held by the same house.
Although today the “servant” element of “family” has disappeared, the concept of sharing a common home is still a part of our understanding of what family is. Granted, our culture may be more spread out than the ones that came before, meaning that families are often split across several different households. But the fact remains that sharing a common dwelling is a big part of being family. That’s why we can consider our team here at 8853 W. Freeland Road to be a business family of sorts. We share a common roof and are held by the same four walls.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to family than just sharing a roof. But there’s also a lot that comes with that concept of the “household” that can help give us an even deeper idea of how businesses are like families.
First of all, just like most family members, coworkers don’t usually get to pick their coworkers. Think about it: you didn’t pick your parents or your siblings nor did you have the option to. With the notable exception of adoption, they likely didn’t pick you either. It’s similar at work. Sure, you applied and the boss had to hire you. But not everyone you work with had a say in choosing you. And (unless, of course, you’re on the hiring team) you don’t have the power to pick the new employees.
In some cases, people probably consider this inability to choose an unfortunate quality of both families and workplaces. After all, because of this, both family members and coworkers are basically forced to spend lots of time with and share a common space with people they may not have chosen on their own.
So, sure. It’s rough not getting to pick your situation for yourself. But, as with most challenges in life, you’re not totally without power. You may not get to pick your family or your coworkers, but you do have the power to choose how to deal with them. It’s common for both family and team members to unwittingly choose a mopey, grumpy attitude that only make relationships worse. But that’s not the only option. There are better alternatives.
The best alternative attitude to assume is the relationship building attitude. This attitude begins with the understanding that every relationship is a matter of space and time. In other words, you get to know someone by spending time in a common space with them. And it’s partly up to you to turn that space and time into a pleasure and not a pain.
Regarding the amount of time you spend with your coworkers, lets face the facts: you probably spend more of your waking hours with your coworkers than you do with your actual family. That’s a lot of time. So use it to get to know each other. Don’t let your chats be all business. Make some of it personal too. And, once you’ve started communicating, don’t stop. Communication is an easy habit to fall out of, but it’s essential to long-term relationships. Building the type of team that will actually enjoy spending time together will require you to make the everyday choice to talk.
It will also require you to make the everyday choice to respect your shared space. Maybe you have your own office, but you at least share a building with your coworkers. So respect them by remembering that fact and acting accordingly. Don’t take over the space, but still take ownership and do your part to keep things tidy and clean. Remember how sometimes you didn’t clean up after yourself as a child? Remember how that would make your mom frustrated? The same thing can happen here. So don’t let the space you share at work become a source of tension. Do your part to make it a nice place to come to.
Put simply, the best thing for you to do as a member of a family or a team is to prepare for the long term. When it comes to family, this is especially true. Like it or not, you’re stuck with your family for life, and it’s partially up to you to decide if you’re going to let family gatherings be painful or enjoyable. The sooner you decide to give it your best shot, the better. The same applies to your job.
Although coworkers are less permanent than family members, you still have the power to decide what your days at work with them will be like. When work relationships aren’t set up for the long term, the space and time you share can become a source of tension. That’s why, whether you plan to stay with your employer for three years or for thirty years, you should never be okay with making shortcuts in relationships with your coworkers. Treat them like family, as if you have a lifetime ahead of you of co-working with them under the same roof. Adopting that mindset is how you can do your part in putting the “family” into “family business.”