Neal and David Karbin are second and third-generation leaders at Norridge-based Lexco Cable Manufacturing, which has provided wire rope and wire rope assemblies for OEMs for over four decades.
Founded by Neal's father, Harold, in 1952 as a bicycle shop, Lexco Cable has evolved to its current business as Neal joined in 1978, followed by Neil's son, David, in 2006. Family values have guided the growing business from its start and as it adapts to new market challenges and opportunities.
Here are five things Neal and David say are important to maintaining family harmony while running a business.
1. Remember Thanksgiving:
Strong, loving relationships are always your first priority. The last thing that you want is a rift in the family. By remembering Thanksgiving at key junctures or disagreements, you will remember your priorities: maintaining and fostering healthy relationships with family. Your relationships are more important than money as money can't replace the joy of sharing holidays and celebrations with family.
2. Show your gratitude for the heroes at home:
Show your gratitude for the heroes at home: Success matters from the kitchen table to the conference table. Think about how long work hours are going to affect your significant other. Work-life balance will be difficult when owning your own business and the grind of long hours will strain relationships. Remember you are not going to be the only one shouldering responsibility and making sacrifices. Your family members at home are also contributing to the family's and business' success. Be sure to carve out quality time to spend with your partner and to invest in your home life.
3. Share your vision:
Long term goals are the bedrock for any family business. If family members have different business visions and priorities that go unaddressed, there will be fault lines in the business bedrock that will compromise good decision making. If left unaddressed, eventually there will be an earthquake. Ensure you and your family have open lines of communication and touch base at regular intervals to make sure everyone still shares the same vision.
Warning: Everyone in a family has his or her own style of (mis) communication. Having more than one generation involved in running a business amplifies the chance that someone might be misunderstood. You will need to adapt your communication instincts to be an effective team.
4. Breathe -- Focus on the endgame:
It's easier to lose your temper with family. Be careful because, as someone in a leadership role, you set the tone for how the entire business problem solves. Arguments make for a bad work environment for everyone, so don't slam doors, don't get into shouting matches, and don't do things you'll need to apologize for later. Set an example by staying under control. This doesn't mean being conflict averse -- conflict is healthy -- just remember to breathe and handle conflicts professionally, even with family members.
Because of your close relationship with your family members, your interaction style is ingrained in your subconscious. This means that you will have instinctive, guttural reactions without pausing to think which can negatively affect the business. To get along better with family, you may have to get to know yourself better.
5. Celebrate -- Recognize one another's achievements:
It's too easy to take family for granted and not recognize each other's accomplishments. Take time to celebrate all the good that comes along with having a family business. Remember how lucky you are to see your parents, siblings, kids, and cousins thrive at work every day, and how, because of the business, you have a unique bond to one another.
Pro Tip: Magicians need not apply. Time, patience, and persistence are essential to nourishing a business. Small improvements over time make the big difference. Sometimes it will feel like one step back before two steps forward; that's normal. Stay the course.
Above all, remember a family business is more than a career -- it is a way of life.
Like Lexco Cable, most family businesses start out as a way to earn a living.
But, if you're lucky and work hard, businesses can morph into a greater social network.
Over the years, the Karbin family gained their employees' trust and respect.
What started as a Karbin family affair has grown into a larger family of families at Lexco Cable who share all of life's happy and sorrowful events together.
A successful family business is about more than being good at one aspect of business.
You have to be aware of the needs of your family and your work family.
And as the next generation or other family members join the business, there is nothing more satisfying than letting go and watching the results of your patience flourish and experiencing your family's and team's accomplishments.