When Every Workday is Mother's Day
By Elizabeth Blackwell - 05/11/12 - 7:30 AM EDT
CHICAGO (MainStreet) -- Working with family members can be both rewarding and challenging, and when relatives butt heads it has implications far beyond the office. Those potentially dramatic consequences have even inspired books on the subject, with titles ranging from Keep the Family Baggage Out of the Family Business
to Family Wars: The Real Stories Behind the Most Famous Family Business Feuds
But what about when the relatives in question really like each other? Even admire each other? For all the attention given to family business dysfunction, it's important to note the many advantages a family-run business can have, such as built-in trust and loyalty among co-workers.
|Organizables, begun in late 2010 by a mother and daughter team, is carried on the Home Shopping Network and sold via a number of online retailers -- one of many thriving family businesses.
With Mother's Day on the horizon, one California start-up is timely reminder that it is not only possible for a mother and daughter to work together effectively, but that the process has actually enriched their relationship.
Dr. Melinda Bossenmeyer, a former teacher and elementary school principal, raised her children in an entrepreneurial household: In addition to her day job, she ran her own company, Peaceful Playgrounds
, which produces organized activities for schools to use during recess.
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Melinda's daughter, Zia, grew up accompanying her mother to trade shows and stuffing envelopes for mailings. In 2006, two years after graduating from college, Zia joined her mother's company part time while she tried to figure out her next move. The next move, it turned out, was to follow in her mother's footsteps by starting her own business -- in partnership with her own in-house mentor, Melinda.
The company that resulted from their brainstorming, Organizables
, was inspired by a system Zia used when she was little: children's clothing organizers that streamline the morning routine by pre-selecting outfits for the week. Based in Lake Elsinore, Calif., Organizables launched in late 2010, and its products are now carried on the Home Shopping Network and a number of online retailers.
Starting a business is stressful, but Melinda and Zia say their relationship has been strengthened, not strained, by going through it together. It has also given them a new appreciation for each other's strengths, strengths they might never have known about otherwise.
"The most important lesson I've learned from my mother is persistence and endurance," Zia says. "I'm more willing to give up and walk away, and she's there to coax me saying, 'Just keep going.' I have earned more respect for my mother in learning what she went through as a single mom with a full-time job, two kids and starting up a company on the side. The sense of appreciation for what she did and what we have now is something that most children don't get insight into."
Melinda says the day-to-day interaction has given her new insights into her daughter's strengths. "I've learned that Zia has many talents that I was not aware of," she says. "Her ability to organize, focus and prioritize complements my style, as I tend to drift into developing new products before others are properly launched. It is always helpful to have another perspective, and given it's coming from my daughter, it's one I can't ignore."
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Indeed, having a trusted, caring support system on hand can be a huge benefit, like having an in-house life coach when the going gets tough. "I can't tell you how many times I have reassured my daughter that starting a new business takes time," Melinda says. "Being there to support and nurture and provide a broader perspective is a blessing that few parents have when it comes to their daughter or son's career."
Just because a mother and daughter are close doesn't mean they agree on everything. "My mother tends to be more diplomatic and patient," Zia says. "I tend to be more impulsive and emotional, or as she would say, 'Just being young.'" But both women say their underlying trust in each other makes it easier to negotiate through their differences.
Despite the occasional authority battles, with disagreements over who should take charge of a project, Zia says working with her mother has made her more confident and secure in her opinions. "I find there's a lot of freedom in being able to be honest and say 'I don't like this,' or 'That would be a horrible mistake,'" she says. "Whereas in a typical business relationship, I would have bit my tongue more often and lived a less authentic work experience."
So the next time you hear a horror story about a family business gone wrong, keep in mind that there are plenty of mothers, daughters, fathers and sons who mix the personal and professional without drama. Indeed, Melinda Bossenmeyer says one of the best things about her current career is that she gets to see her daughter every day.
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