Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Family That Picks Together, Sticks Together...

That was my Dad's mantra for our family business for years.  When I was 8, the mantra would irritate me more than the ragweed that made my eyes water as we hunched over the 14 acres of rutabagas and hand weeded each row.  Once weeding was done, we would pull in around 1300 hay bales before finally calling it a day.  With sore muscles, tanned faces, and dirt under our nails, we would join around the dinner table and eat the casserole my mom creatively stretched to feed her family of five, plus at least five more of the hired hands.  The crew ate with us so often that I actually thought one of them was my brother, and was heartbroken to learn that he just worked for us .. but really, in a family business, more often than not, the employees become just as important as each family member.

Mornings began with tight muscles and high expectations.  Nights fell with a satisfying empty field, and the anticipation of having to do it all over again tomorrow. Dad would recant the day with us at the dinner table, and I always felt important when he discussed the crew members with us -the challenging ones, the funny ones, the non-memorable ones (what was his name again?)... I felt grown up, and part of the management team.  I think even my Dad had a hard time remembering we were, in fact, just kids.

As I watched my Dad lead, I learned to be a leader.  I watched him handle the disputes of disgruntled employees and hot and bothered hay customers.  At market, I watched him humbly hop back in his truck and drive back to the farm with a load of rejected produce. (rejected only because the buyer screwed up the order)....  I beamed with pride when I witnessed my Dad throw in a few extra rutabagas or vegetables into a person's car when he knew they were having hard times.  I smile to this day when I pull into the door yard and see my Dad walking up from the fields, and pause as he gets lost in thought as he gazes at the rolling green hills which are his pride and joy. 

And now, as a business owner, I marvel at his ability to weather the storms that washed away his hard work, his strength to keep going despite setbacks, and his faith to keep praying for rain, and just enough sun.  Often, I reach down deep to pull out some of that Hansen stubbornness and tenacity that has kept my Dad going for nearly 50 years as a business owner.  I apply his principles of customer service, pride in your product, humility, humanity, and family values to my own business every day.  I can safely say, it's made me not only a better person, but a better business owner myself.

So, while my Dad's mantra is "A family that picks together, sticks together...." I have to say not only is that true - but also, a Dad who teaches his daughter to lead, will help her to succeed.  Thanks Dad.

Did you grow up in a family business?  What life lesson's did you learn that you'd like to share?

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