A little respect, please

A short, mostly concise airing of grievances.

Last year I was running along the beautiful Poudre River. It was an epic weather day – sunny, warm, birds chirping, elk entering on cue and so forth.  I lost track of time and ended up doing a half-marathon. How fancy, right? Yay. Go Cosper. Nope. I ended up with a world-class “sugar bonk,” which is the term runners use for low-blood sugar. Your head gets fuzzy, your step gets a little wobbly and, well, you bonk.

My go-to sugar bonk revival mechanism is Hot Tamales. I keep a box in my backpack at all times. I know how fast I’m running by how hard the box is shaking. I’ve done this for years. What I didn’t know at the time is that Hot Tamales – my analog pace tracker -- are made by a family-owned business called Just Born. The company also makes Peeps (an equally essential sugar bonk cure).

Why didn’t I know this before? Well, I don’t know why. Maybe because my head has been lodged in the startup world for so long because I thought that’s where the cool things were happening. I could not have been more wrong.

Later that year, when the snow arrived, I hung up my runners and grabbed my snowboard for snow stuff. It’s a Burton board  – a classic. I always thought of Burton as a super-cool startup from Vermont when, in fact, it is a super-cool multigenerational family company started in 1977 in Vermont. This makes me question both my age and my business acumen.

When I talk to business people, academics, even investors about family businesses, some respond with a certain snark “but it’s so small” or “it’s such an old sector” or “not very sexy,” my response is visceral. What I now know and what the perceptions are need to align a little better, at least in my head.

I mean, at the end of the day what is a family business but a multigenerational, (hopefully) cash-flow positive startup? Not sexy, you say? Ha. Wrong. You, family business people, create trends, you employ people, you build trust, you’re a bulwark of the economy and you have stories to tell.

At any one point in the day millions of people are interacting with, purchasing, in some way touching family businesses and products. Most probably don’t know it. To me, it’s a big deal.

This is why the entire family business ecosystem deserves a little more respect and, frankly, more credit.

You have the ability to inspire, grow and transform businesses and educate leaders. Your job is to tell your story. Run toward it, not away from it. Why? Because your story is your greatest asset. And there is not a greater story to tell than that of the family business. I have the Hot Tamales in my backpack to prove it.


Amy Cosper

Twitter me @AmyCCosper

Well. You’re still quiet out there. Do you agree that family businesses are the original entrepreneurial story? Let me know. What’s your story, anyway? We’d love to run your responses. Send them here: amy.cosper@familybusinessmagazine.com

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