Support Local Independent Small Businesses!

retail business

Operating a small business in San Francisco –particularly a neighborhood retail business– is very challenging. Rental costs are soaring and good long-term lease terms are hard to secure. Buildings can change hands and new property owners may not sympathize with the slim profit margins of their small business tenants. Landlords may keep storefronts empty, waiting for retailers who can pay more. There is also constant competition from online retailers and national chains, as well as increased street parking restrictions that may make it difficult to attract customers.

Recently, S.F. Mayor London Breed signed legislation to streamline the permitting process for small business owners and allow retailers to diversify their offerings in an effort to combat retail vacancies. Policies and regulations that support small businesses are vitally important. At the same time, we can take action at the individual level by committing our dollars locally to help keep small, independent business retailers in our city.

Most of us are guilty of price shopping. We take a stroll through a neighborhood, enjoying the warmth and friendliness of the small commercial environment. We like to window shop and admire the products on display and attend local merchants’ special events. Then we go home and order from Amazon or another online retailer so we can save a little money and have items delivered to our doorstep the next day. But there are costs to these purchase choices — both to independently-owned small businesses in our area and to the workers in the online retail warehouses. (Listen to Amazon: Behind the Smiles from The Center of Investigative Reporting’s Reveal podcast.)

Supporting local retailers may take extra effort and it sometimes means paying a little more. But when we shop locally, we create a positive ripple effect. Each dollar that is spent with a local business has a multiplier effect as it recirculates within the community. These businesses make our city a vibrant place not just to shop but to live.

We have been fortunate to work with and teach hundreds of small business owners in the San Francisco Bay Area. These entrepreneurs turn their passions into enterprises that are important both to our local economy and the character of our city.  Join us in a Shop Local challenge by supporting only small businesses when you shop this holiday season!

 

The Exit Planning Audit: Are you ready to go?

At some point, most small business owners will ask: What is next for me beyond this business?

“I want to pursue something new.” “I’m burned out.” “I wonder if I could sell this business.” “My family member or employee wants to take over, and maybe it’s time.” “Retirement sounds good!”

If you are having a similar thought, it may be a good time for a business audit. A business audit is essentially a business check-up — you are assessing the health of your business so you can make well-informed decisions about next steps. A business audit is a great management tool to use at any stage of business… ideally annually!

exit planning audit

An exit planning business audit is a tool to help you specifically evaluate your readiness for an ownership transfer and determine if your business is a good sales prospect. Will your business be attractive to a buyer or will it need improvement prior to offering it for sale? Is the business’ goodwill of high enough value to attract interested buyers, or are you better off selling physical/tangible assets and simply closing the business?

Here are some initial business audit questions to consider when exploring a business ownership transition:

Your business exit motivations:

  • Why do you want to exit your business?
  • What do you want to do next?
  • Do you want to leave completely or stay involved in some way?
  • Do you have any conditions for a business sale?
  • Do you have a vision for your business even after you aren’t involved?

The status of the business:

  • Do you have up-to-date financial statements that match your tax returns?
  • Have sales revenues and profits consistently increased over the past few years?
  • Does your business have a distinct competitive advantage?
  • Does your business operate with clear written procedures and agreements?
  • Can your business operate without you, or with you in a different role?
  • Does your business have opportunities for growth?

Your answers to these questions (and many more!) will help you determine the right next steps for you and your business, and the best timeline for an ownership transition.

A business exit can be complicated and we encourage you to start thinking about your business exit well in advance. You want time to consider what an exit would mean for you and your business well before you are ready to make this change.  You want a transition that won’t negatively affect your employees and the vendors, clients or customers reliant on your business.

Don’t wait until your business is struggling or you are desperate for a change before you act.  With thorough exit planning, you can improve your readiness to transition and the value of your business!

At Paul Terry & Associates we help small business owners answer the many questions related to ownership transition. We take clients through an exit planning audit — prioritizing business ownership transition motivations, evaluating the business’ strengths and weaknesses, and assessing the readiness for a business sale. Then we help business owners create a plan for a successful transition.

Learn more here!

Are you ready for your encore?

The traditional idea of retirement is increasingly becoming an old notion—either because people need to keep working as a financial necessity or because they still want to work. Instead of retiring, many people are looking to do something on their own terms, and do work that really matters.

encore career

The term “encore career” is being used to describe a new career later in life—one that is focused not just on making a living but on making a difference. Encore.org—a San Francisco non-profit that helps people pursue “second acts for the greater good”—defines encore careers as jobs that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact in the second half of life. And according to the organization, the idea is catching on. As many as 9 million people ages 44 to 70 are already in encore careers, with 31 million more interested in the idea but not sure how to make the transition.

For many, the encore career most appealing is starting a business. In 2012, nearly one quarter of all new businesses were started by people ages 55 to 64.  According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, business creation by older Americans grew more than 60% between 1996 and 2012.

So if you are interested in starting your own business as an encore career, where do you begin?

1. Follow your passion! Your business will only succeed if you love what you do. As Steve Jobs says, “The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

2. Know yourself well. Assess your strengths and weaknesses to determine if you have what it takes. Do you have some of the traits common to successful entrepreneurs? What are your existing skills?  Older entrepreneurs have an advantage — at this point you probably have a good sense of what you love to do and what you can do well. Now, instead of doing that work for an employer, you can do it for yourself.

3. Get out there to connect and learn. There is so much to learn from others in the field. Read, take classes, join small business groups of like-minded people, find organizations focused on the issues you are passionate about, as well as organizations focused on senior entrepreneurs. Starting a business can be a risky endeavor but much less so when you have relevant skills, a sense of the marketplace, and an understanding of what others have tried already and what has succeeded or failed.

4. Don’t do it alone. Starting a new business can be a significant undertaking. You need a strong network to help you navigate through the rough patches and mentors who will share sound guidance. It is important to surround yourself with supportive and insightful people.  As someone with life and career experience, there is a good chance you have a strong network of contacts already — people you can turn to as a support system and people who might eventually be customers or clients.

5. Use all the business tools you can find. There are many non-profit organizations and government agencies committed to helping people start their own small businesses. In San Francisco, the Office of Small Business is a great resource and there is a San Francisco Business Portal for finding all the licenses and permits you’ll need. Check out our website for more resources.

6. Money, money, money. There are many small and home-based businesses that can be launched without much start-up capital. No matter your size, knowing the resources you have and projecting what you may be able to earn is critical. How much do you need to make each month to cover expenses and make a profit? What are your start-up costs and how will you fund your transition? There are many ways to fund your business, with crowdfunding platforms becoming an increasingly popular strategy.

7. Make a plan! Your plan doesn’t need to be lengthy but it’s helpful to give some thought to marketing, money and management before you begin. A business plan can force you to clarify your idea, understand the external conditions that might affect your business, and set realistic goals with benchmarks to track your progress. Doing the research, talking to people and creating realistic financial projections will give you confidence to get your business started and keep it going. Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center offers a 12-week Business Planning Class to help you through the process.

Above all, what’s most important is to get out there and keep learning. Starting a small business is tough but it can be so rewarding both for the people you serve and the person you become. You are never too old to learn something new and make a difference.

Do you have a personal support system?

Being a small business owner can be isolating. By creating your own personal support system, you can combat that feeling, get guidance with business next steps and find the motivation to take action.

Here are four personal support strategies that are simple to set-up, easy to maintain, have a built-in accountability factor and are proven to work!

support system

1. Support Partner

The support partner is your unconditional “business friend”.  Ideally, this person is someone in business like you who can listen, give emotional support for your business issues, and provide constructive feedback on business dilemmas and opportunities. The relationship is bi-directional – each support partner helps the other. You each take turns listening and giving/getting advice. You may agree to meet weekly, catch-up, share problems and successes, and then use your partner as an objective reviewer for your weekly plans. You can meet in person or by phone or video chat. The meeting should be a check-in for ongoing support and follow-up. It is important that this relationship is on-going (at least bi-weekly) and long-term (at least 6 months). That way,  your support partner gets exposed to your business issues and understands the context and the players in your world. Your meetings can be a catalyst for positive change and an opportunity to talk discreetly about business issues outside of your own business environment.

2. Peer Support Group

This strategy involves gathering several “business friends” into a support group of peers – people in business at similar stages of growth and open to getting and giving help to colleagues. They could be in the same industry but they don’t have to be. This group could meet monthly to share concerns and common goals and to provide one another with useful information. Like the support partner strategy, each member of the support group gets encouragement but to an even greater extent, since the support is coming from a group of three to six people. You can prepare for a meeting ahead of time and focus on a work-related goal. At the meeting you can get creative brainstorming support from a small group of people all focused on you. You will provide the same support and business feedback for them – each person taking 15-30 minutes of group time to discuss the issues, present some options, take feedback and promise to implement a solution. Before the next meeting, you will complete your tasks, as there are other people waiting for your results! This accountability factor is very helpful. Your support group will be expecting to hear about your progress at the next meeting and your success related to implementing next steps.

3. Business Mentor

We all know people who know more about being in business than we do. These are people that we approach as our advisors or “business mentors”. This person could be a small business owner or business professional like a banker or an accountant, a larger (and friendly) competitor, or simply a friend wise to the ways of business. The relationship is usually very professional, managed carefully, and used only when appropriate. Once a mentor has been located and established (even if informally), you must respect the advisor’s time (which, after all, they are giving you for free).  Show that you value their time and professional advice by staying within the meeting timeframe agreed upon, communicating your appreciation for their support, and following up by email or phone to share your progress and the results of their advice.

4. Team of Advisors

This group is a voluntary board or team of advisors that may only meet annually. This is a broad-based group of people who volunteer to meet together for you, follow your agenda, review your issues, and give their individual and collective advice. This group may include a senior manager in your industry, a successful entrepreneur, your friendly attorney or accountant, or even an established competitor in your field – who wants to give back and help you!

You need to find and invite the right mix of experts and set up the meeting (perhaps a weekend breakfast at your home). They attend and give you advice and direction for one or two hours. You will have a room full of incredible experts focused on you and your success.  Their compensation is that you will take in their advice, implement it and follow-up about the results. They will delight in your progress and success. In addition, they may get to develop a new network of peer supporters for their own businesses.

 


Each of these four business support strategies are valuable. Depending on your needs, you can use just one or all four to support yourself and your business.  Start by picking the one that most appeals to you, seems the simplest to get going, and has the most potential to bring you tangible results. By committing to this process, you are committing to make your business work. Asking for and getting help from others will help you succeed!

Selling Your Business – Essential First Steps

Are you thinking about selling your business? We assist small business owners with management transitions. For clients interested in selling their businesses, we help them focus on these essential first steps:

selling

1. Understand your business exit motivations

Why do you want to sell your business?  Perhaps you want to start a new business or focus on other pursuits. Maybe you are burned out, at odds with your business partner, or ready to retire. It is important to understand what is motivating your decision to sell your business. Your current perspective and emotional outlook can affect your approach to the sale and the timing of your business exit.

2. Prioritize your sales goals

It is good to start a business sale process with a clear idea of your desired outcomes. Are you looking to sell immediately? Is a high sale price the most important factor for you? Do you want to remain involved in some capacity? Do you have preferences for who buys the business? Do you want to influence how the business operates after you sell? Is a cash sale necessary or will you consider seller financing?  Clarifying what you want will affect the sales approach you take.

3. Assess your business’ current condition

Is your business a good sales prospect? Is your business likely to attract a buyer? Are there areas of the business that will need improvement before you sell?  When looking at each aspect of your business, you must try to understand the business from a potential buyer’s perspective. You need to consider your sales and profit history, the business’ financial condition and your products or services. For a brick and mortar business, look at your business location, your facilities and your equipment. To be a good sales prospect, your business may need to retain your employees and your clientele…and perhaps even you for three to six months!

4. Assess the current value of your business

How much is your business worth?  Valuing your business helps you set an asking price. There are different ways to determine the value of a small business. You will need to consider your tangible and intangible assets and the business’ prospects for growth. You can hire a business valuation expert to do a business appraisal or work with a business broker to request a Broker’s Opinion of Value. With recent tax returns and financial projections in hand, it may be sufficient to work with us to do some simple calculations to estimate a realistic amount.

Now you are ready

Once you are clear on your motivations, your goals, and the current condition of your business, you are ready for one of these next steps:

• Prepare to present a sale-ready business to interested buyers.

• Invest the time to make your business more attractive to buyers and increase its value. (This would start with an action plan and timeline for each area of the business that needs improvement.)

• Offer to sell the business at its current sub-par condition (knowing you may have lower interest and/or a lower sale price).

• Continue to operate the business as well as you can and close it when you are “done”, selling any tangible assets.


We can help! We work with clients through these initial business transition steps. We review the current business so you can consider a business sale. We help with business improvement action plans to improve the value of your assets (even if you do not sell right away). We help you compile the documentation necessary for a business sale. Learn more.

Where did the time go?

This is the question we all ask, and perhaps small business owners ask the most! Many time management experts say that the key to managing our time well and being productive is figuring out what is most important, and making time to do that first. But how can we do that when it all feels so urgent?

time

The pros and cons of the to do list

Many of us keep detailed to-do lists. Our list will grow and grow and can become so long that it’s easier to focus on the “simple stuff” we can quickly complete and check off the list. We put off the tasks that will be most strategic for our business, the tasks that will help us grow and be a success.

Multi-tasking

As small business owners we wear many hats and must often multi-task. We have the tendency to want to do it all ourselves (even when we are stuck) and we don’t want to delegate (or don’t know how to). We are often completely consumed in the business without making time to work on the business, or we let personal stuff get in the way of how we run our business.

The effects of overwhelm

There can be a lot of emotions tied up with how we spend and “manage” our time, too. When we have too much to do we can get overwhelmed and frustrated. Our actions become non-productive. We procrastinate (ignoring what we know we must do) or we sabotage ourselves (purposely doing something counterproductive), and we end up paralyzed – blaming ourselves and sometimes even giving up.

The 80/20 Rule

One way out of this overwhelm is by paying attention to the Pareto Principle or what is often referred to as the “80/20 Rule”:

time

If you can figure out which tasks are producing your business’ results, you can spend more time on those activities and less time on others.  Often if a task makes you feel uncomfortable or if you are putting it off, it may be a sign that it needs your attention!

As a simple way to start, Perry Marshall, author of 80/20 Sales and Marketing, recommends that we flip our daily to do list. “If there are 10 things you need to do today, odds are that one task is worth 10 times more than the rest. It is natural to want to put it off and get the other tasks done first but you need to switch it around and first focus on that one thing that is most important.”  Do you need to write your marketing plan, call a disgruntled customer, create financial projections or go after a new client?  Focus on that key task first.

time

When I talk to my business students about time management I share the same essential message. The first step is to identify the priorities — or  BIG ROCKS — for your business and then structure your time to put them first. If you are a small business owner (particularly if you are just launching your businesses) you really cannot do it all. You need to focus on the key 10-20% of your business that can bring the best results now. Once you have some comfort in or mastery over that area, you can expand your focus.

Taking action

Now, it’s time to take action!  Starting first thing tomorrow…

  • Look at your to-do list and pick only three tasks for the day – tasks that are the most important for your business right now. (What task will help you make money now? What task will build a key business skill now? What task will help solve the most critical issue?)
  • Tackle only one task at a time.
  • Set a start time and end time for each task to keep yourself focused.
  • Pick someone to hold you accountable and share what you are doing with them.
  • Don’t forget to get rid of all distractions. Clear other work off your desk, turn off email, put down your phone… and get to it!

The reality is that your to-do list will never go away and it will probably always be long.  It may be helpful to write down all your tasks so they don’t keep swimming around in your head. But the goal is to not get distracted by your list.

And sometimes is important to put away the list entirely. Our best business breakthroughs often come when we aren’t focused on our business. Sometimes it is only when we take a break, that we can gain perspective.

Rock, paper, wisdom

At Paul Terry & Associates, we make wisdom stones for our colleagues and clients. These stones have become a long-standing tradition (over 20 years!) and they express our intention to help small business owners tune in to their passions, stay focused on their goals, find meaning in their business management, and make a difference in the world.

wisdom stones

Each stone, with its special design and word of inspiration, is unique and the process of making them is a labor of love.

wisdom stones

Every year my wife, Leslie, creates a stone design. Together we select river rocks from a quarry, we wash and scrub them, I apply linseed oil, and then Leslie glues interesting handmade papers to each rock, often incorporating string or twine. The last step in the process is adding a word of wisdom to the back of each stone.

wisdom stones

After so many years of making these stones and sharing them with others, we started to wonder… where do they end up and what do they mean to people?

So we asked. Here is some of what we found out…

They decorate people’s bookshelves, tables and mantels:

wisdom stones

They live in the office, the bathroom and the garden:

wisdom stones

And they can be found in many rooms throughout peoples’ houses:

“One is on my table, another on my bookshelf, a fourth by my meditation area, and a fifth by my bedside.”

“The chaos of my life always benefits from having a few wisdom stones nearby. And yes, they are in every room of my house. Almost.”

For some people, the stones are decoration.  For others, they are continued inspiration. One colleague keeps her wisdom stones in her office and they inspire her communication with her clients.  Another colleague shared,

“I sometimes have a client pick up a rock to guide our consulting session if they are stuck on some issue: it breaks them into a smile!”

This colleague used her wisdom stones at a party once as a way to introduce people to each other. Each party guest read a word on a rock and shared what it meant for them, which made for some fun ice breaker introductions.  She then mused that if she could remember which rock she received on which year, it would be interesting to look at the words of wisdom and see how they matched the trajectory of her business and her business growth.

It has been fun to see where these stones have ended up and what they mean to people. For me, making the stones and then giving them away is a way to connect to community… sharing small objects of beauty that hopefully bring joy and inspiration to others.

If you have ever received a PTA wisdom stone, please let me know what it means to you.

Your management transition

Are you thinking about transitioning out of your current management role in your business? Stepping away from your small business doesn’t have to mean giving it up completely. It could mean removing yourself from day-to-day operations or delegating management responsibilities to someone else so the business can continue to function smoothly without your constant presence.
In any business transition—whether it involves a change of business ownership or just a change in management, we encourage business owners to consider these five factors:

stepping away

1. Assess or audit your business

Before making a big management change, understand the value of your business and the strength of your existing systems. Be sure to ask key questions and audit your business. Have you built business assets that have real value? Do you know what your business is worth? Do you have operational systems that can be understood by others? Do you have key employees that will take on increased responsibilities?

2. Support and train others

To step away from the business, your employees need to be prepared to take on more responsibility… and you have to be ready to give up some control. If family members are taking the reins, they need to know the details of the business and understand what will be expected of them. You may need to hire new senior management who must get up to speed and gain your trust. Any new manager (or eventual owner) needs to get to know the business inside and out and develop the skills needed for success. Your role is to facilitate all of this.

3. Take your time

In any transition – whether it involves a change in business ownership or just a change in management – a gradual process is ideal. This allows for a new manager/owner to grow into his/her role. It takes time to gain confidence and also credibility in day-to-day management for all stakeholders. As time goes on, you may be able to assume a more advisory (or backseat) role… and by then you will be ready for it. If selling your business is the goal, you will need time to prepare for the sale and find the right buyer. So… look at a realistic timeline and set the right pace for you.

4. Get help and accountability

It can feel impossible to focus on a future transition when there is so much to attend to with the business right now. You are managing services, employees, cash flow, marketing and day-to-day operations. How can you focus on your transition goals when so many other aspects of the business need your attention right now? An advisor, support partner or support group can help you create a transition plan and stay accountable to the plan within a realistic timeline. Other professionals such as an accountant can help you understand the financial health of your business and the ramifications of any change. At some point, you will need legal help, too. Get the help you need to hold yourself accountable.

5. Your identity as a business owner

As a small business owner, your whole identity may be wrapped up with your business. You may want a change but you may feel reticent about losing control of the business and the change of identity the comes with stepping away. Perhaps you would no longer have a reason to stay involved with a merchants group, or you may no longer be invited to participate in certain business networks. Without your business identity, you may need to redefine or reinvent yourself.
As small business owners, we pour our hearts (as well as lots of time and often lots of money) into our businesses to make them succeed. After this investment, we want to see our businesses continue to flourish even after we step away from full-time management. Creating a solid transition plan with a good support team can help make our can help make desires a reality.


Paul Terry & Associates works with small business owners who want to value their business, prepare for a business sale or step away from a full-time management role. For clients preparing for a management transition, we can help:

  • Work through the challenges related to change and new roles
  • Install effective management metrics and timelines
  • Hire or train committed management staff
  • Create financial projections for any transition
  • Help the owner(s) write a succession plan

Learn more about our ownership transition services.

New Employee On-boarding Tips

Hiring a new employee is a time-consuming process. You need to define the position, promote the job, evaluate candidates and decide on the right hire. You must think through your hiring plan carefully and then act fast, as other businesses may be interested in hiring your top candidates, too. This process doesn’t end when you offer someone a job and he/she says yes. Now you need to prepare for your new employee’s first day.

The first 90 days on the job are critical for an employee’s success. You want the new person to feel welcomed, engaged and ultimately be happy in the role and committed to your business for the long term.

new employee

Here are some tips to consider when you hire a new employee.

Create an on-boarding plan

Map out how you will orient the new employee to the new job and the business.

  • What will his/her first day, week and month look like?
  • What information about the responsibilities and internal systems will you share when?
  • How will you introduce the new person to key contacts?
  • How will you communicate the business culture and key values?
  • What will be the new employee’s first assignments?

One approach is to create a calendar and/or checklist with key tasks to be learned and/or completed during the first week, month and quarter. This will give both you and the new employee a roadmap to follow so that expectations are clear.

Have the work environment ready

The new hire’s desk or physical area must be ready, with computer set up and e-mail configured. Have payroll figured out and any related new employee paperwork prepared. A welcome packet can include the employee’s job description, a schedule for the first 2 weeks, important contact information, and your business policies and procedures. (Consider creating an employee handbook that explains the company culture, benefits packages and the “rules and regs” of the business.)

Make the first day special

The new employee will probably show up excited but also a bit nervous on the first day. You want him/her to have a positive feeling about the business and co-workers right away. Set a welcoming mood and show the new hire that you are ready. Call employees together to introduce the new hire, or introduce to others one-on-one. Have a lunch plan for the new employee on the first day to help him/her feel welcome.

Train in small modules

There is so much to learn when starting a new job. To be effective, training sessions shouldn’t feel like marathons. Take breaks. Segment the orientation into manageable blocks no longer than 90 minutes. Use time between training sessions for the new employee to meet more staff, tour a particular area, and get started on meaningful but simple or straightforward work.

Check back on a regular basis

Make time for check-ins with the new employee — both during the training process and beyond. This can take the form of a regularly scheduled meeting, a weekly meal, or an informal chat. Discuss concerns, answer questions, share your feedback and address any negative issues before they fester.

Your good planning and continued support will create a lasting, positive environment for this new employee. Remember, you are making a long-term investment in this most important business asset!


Paul Terry & Associates helps clients hire new staff. We can advise on the best hiring steps or completely manage the hiring process from outreach to on-boarding. Are you thinking about hiring someone? We are here to help you hire and train the best person for the job.

Family Business Advice

Owning and operating a small family business – whether you are a business founder or part of the next generation to operate the business – is very different from running a small business with people who aren’t family members. We asked two of our clients to share their thoughts and advice related to the family business experience. One is part of a multi-generational family business and the other has been in business with her husband for over 20 years.

MARTY SANCHEZ, third generation of Casa Sanchez

As a part of the third generation of a successful San Francisco Bay Area family business, Marty understand the dynamics of multi-generation family businesses and shares this advice:

On playing to your your strengths

In every family business, each person has a strength that really helps the family – it could be related to sales, bookkeeping, organization, etc. Learn who you are and figure out your strengths. Engage in the parts of the business that you are good at and where you can make a difference.

On communication and compromise

With family, you sometimes speak without thinking first. Nagging is a common way of communicating in family businesses. This is not the best way to communicate, but it can be effective! You must not forget that the strength of the relationships is the strength of the business. Family business means compromise. This goes for out-laws (in-laws), too, who may not fully understand the family dynamics and have their own ideas for the business.

On personal vs. business time

One holiday many years ago when the family was together, we couldn’t stop talking about the business. Someone said, ‘Let’s not talk about business at all on Thanksgiving and Christmas’… and we’ve stuck to it! This makes holiday time extra special.

On growing up in a family business

Kids get involved with a family business organically. They hang out at the business after school every day and start to help out. They learn about it without even knowing it. It’s ‘Take Your Kid to Work Day’ every day! As kids get older, they can feel obligated to help their parents, siblings or other family members. Guilt can play a large role as they don’t want to abandon the family. We need to be sensitive to these feelings and make sure that those in the next generation feel comfortable talking to someone in the family about the business and their role in it.

On compensating family members

There needs to be a clear understanding about how compensation is handled for family members and how pay and raises are calculated. Imbalances in pay or a lack of clarity lead to resentment. Create clear compensation rules that are related to roles, tasks, hours worked, etc. and put it in writing.

On getting outside support

When an issue comes up, it can be hard to talk about it openly, and in a way that leads to resolution. A family member may be unhappy but may not feel comfortable talking about it. It has been really helpful for us to meet with a mediator to discuss issues, find ways to compromise, and move forward.

On family pride

People love to support family businesses and they love to hear that I am the third-generation in our family business. Customers recognize the commitment, passion, dedication and hard work and want to support us. I’m very proud to be a part of a family-owned business.

DEBORAH BOWES, co-owner of Feldenkrais Center for Movement & Awareness

Deborah has co-owned Feldenkrais Center for Movement & Awareness with her husband, Cliff Smyth, since 1996. Here are her tips for other businesses owned and operated with a life partner:

On communication, compromise and sharing the load

  • Agree on the steps to take next. Be willing to compromise and sometimes follow your partner’s dream.
  • Share the stress. Be attentive to when your partner needs a break and give it to him/her.
  • Be honest with what you want to do and the kind of support that you need.
  • Allow each other to work from his/her strengths.
  • Give a lot of support when your partner is doing something the he/she doesn’t like to do or doesn’t want to do. After all, there’s always going to be some of that!
  • Make specific times for work meetings and take notes. It’s so easy to forget who agreed to what.

On managing conflict

  • Don’t talk about work before going to bed.
  • Go for walks to talk out difficult issues.
  • When you both are around your employees, be professional with each other.
  • Keep any private issues at home.

On work/life balance

  • Home support is essential. Share tasks related to cooking and cleaning, and use a housecleaner if that is helpful.
  • We get grouchy if we have worked all day, come home hungry and there’s nothing to eat in the house. Have food in the freezer ready for a quick meal or get take out once a week.
  • Your business depends on your own self care and health. It is as important as everything else you do. Stay hydrated and try to fit some type of movement or exercise into your day.
  • Laugh together and relax together.

Deborah’s last words of advice are applicable to ALL of us – “Be the kind of boss you’d want to have and the kind of employee you’d value!”


At Paul Terry & Associates, we are familiar with the challenges specific to family business owners and joint ventures. We help new joint ventures define the terms of their relationship and established partners address current issues and update agreements. Learn more about our services.

Check out these tips and resources for family-owned businesses.