Meet Joe. Joe works for a locally owned business. Joe clocks in on time every day and works hard at his job. Joe’s boss, who owns the shop, lives in a nice neighborhood, owns a boat and vacations in Arizona. At the end of each work day, Joe decides how he is going to spend his evening: maybe stop to pick up beer and a pizza in hopes of making it home to watch his favorite television program; maybe he will head to the bar to watch a game, staying for a few rounds of pool; or, he might head to a buddy’s house. Joe is just a simple guy who works hard and plays harder. Day-in and day-out Joe goes to work, collects a pay check and searches out an activity that makes him momentarily happy until he wakes up the next day and does it all over again.

Sounds like a pretty decent life, except that Joe lacks ambition or dreams for the future. He exists to survive each day helping to bring about the dreams and future of someone else: his employer. Joe is stuck in a dead-end job. But wait, Joe is not really stuck! Joe will remain in his job only until he discovers that there are other jobs that have career tracks and opportunities for advancement. Yes! Joe could leave this dead-end job and begin working towards a future for himself and his family. Go, Joe, Go!

If this were your employee, a loyal and hardworking Joe, you may be thinking, “No! Stay, Joe, stay!”, but if you truly cared about Joe, you would have created a thriving place of employment for him and invested in his future. You would have provided continuing education or established operations that would lead Joe to develop his skills and abilities, propelling him into greater opportunities for himself. Because this is what we do for people we truly care about.

Leadership matters. And being a business owner doesn’t make you a great leader, but establishing leadership practices within your organization that model a healthy, family dynamic will contribute the most beneficial resource to any community, thriving people.

When there is an absence of intentional nurture and a lack of deep care and concern for the employee, the small business becomes a producer of dead-end jobs. According to the Deloitte Business Succession Planning, successful family-owned businesses take great consideration to the intersection of operations and family dynamics.[1] On one side is customer satisfaction and profits, the other side is cultivating stronger relationships. There is a healthy middle where both elements of the business can flourish.

Too many small business owners do not take the time to develop leadership style, much less identify it. A good seed can be planted within a company, but it is up to the health of the soil – the culture and operations – that will determine if that seed has the ability to flourish. Employees can grow into fruitful team members with the right training and leadership. This is what Frederick Gibson and Amy Pason, of the Journal of Education for Business call “Transformational Leadership”.[2] Gibson and Pason say “innovative leadership engages people, builds authentic relationships, and creates a more philanthropic community”.

Unfortunately, this idea of building authentic relationships within business counters the traditional hierarchy leadership that many of us are familiar with; where ideas and strategies come from the top and trickle their way down to those at the bottom of the ladder. Transformational Leadership, on the other hand, requires service-based leadership; owners and managers are foundational. They exist to support and develop the skills and contributions of those they lead. Similar to most thriving plant life, growth comes from the ground up.

If I were to address a room full of local business owners and ask whose business housed dead-end jobs, I could guarantee that not one hand would go up. I mean, honestly, who would want to admit that they are host to the ambition-hindering, decay of their own society? But it is a question that needs to be asked, and it is a question that demands immediate consideration. It is a matter of local responsibility and community accountability.

To be identified as “leadership”, a business owner must be, at some degree, concerned with the success of those whom they are responsible for leading. If the owner has not considered the outcomes of his employee’s future within his company, there is no leadership style to speak of. In The Leadership Value Chain, Robert Kaiser and Darren Overfield argue that simply defining “leadership” is something that needs to be emphasized. According to statistical analysis, a high majority of leaders viewed leadership to be measured by the individual leader’s success as opposed to measuring the success a team or group. [3]

This relates back to the solution of a healthy family dynamic in business. A father can say that he is a great dad, but without inquiring of his wife and children, and assessing the benefit of him in their life, his claim would neither be accurate nor conclusive.  Kaiser and Overfield state that leader behaviors affect employee behaviors, and employee behaviors predict performance and profitability. If profitability is at the heart of every small business owner, as I would assume it is, then it should be understood that sales growth and productivity can be traced down to the root of the business’s leadership.

Perhaps the concept of “healthy family dynamic” is not so common an understanding as we might hope. With a wide array of beliefs, values and sociological upbringings within our communities, it would help us to clearly identify how a healthy family dynamic operates.

Family is about accepting one another in our differences. For stronger unity, diversity is our greatest strength. Business owners must “adopt” employees; with their new set of eyes, fresh thinking and innovative input, a business has the potential to flourish at much greater strides when they embrace contrasting individuals. Collaboration encourages participation, which establishes a sense of ownership and pride. It’s the difference between gathering your family together and saying, “hey kids, we are going to Michigan for vacation this year! Yay!”, or “Hey kids, where should we go for vacation this year?”.  One is a question that initiates dialogue and the other is just a monologue.

According to the Ivey Business Journal, “the ongoing success of any enterprise ultimately rests with the diversity of its human capital- each person’s capabilities, engagement, performance, creativity, integrity and commitment to quality and customer care.”[4] As financial wealth is a contributing factor of economic capital, human capital contributes to the wealth of a community.

Family knows one another; they know how to help one another and they know how to hinder one another. They also know how to love them well, because family is about legacy. In this same way, a business owner must also know his employees. Who are they as a person? What are their strengths? What areas need developing? Creating a profile of each team member allows you to follow up with them on goals and shared purposes. By listing skills that need coaching, setting specific goals and providing ongoing training and education, you are giving them the personal and professional resources they need to thrive within your organization and within the community as a whole.

The Ivey Business Journal points out that changing the culture requires ongoing evaluations of your organization and your people; it takes commitment to continuous learning and improvement to establish a healthy workplace. Quarterly evaluations provide the perfect opportunity to invite conversation and dialogue about what is working and what needs improvement. This does not just mean a review of their work performance – this is a time to hear how they are liking working for you, what they need more or less of in their work environment, and for them to hear how you are going to help them reach their goals.

Acknowledge if your business is building a legacy or simply creating an asset. When your child disappoints you, or doesn’t follow through on expectations, do you fire them? No. You coach them towards better behavior and improved performance.  Establishing clear expectations, while giving people permission to ask questions and make mistakes, provides a safe place for people to walk out their development.

When you decide to become a leader, it is no longer about you. It is about those whom you are leading. It is often said that people do not quit their jobs, they quit their leadership. Adopting a family dynamic into your leadership style will grow a healthier culture within your workplace. And a healthier culture is like nutrient rich soil for seeds to grow and develop. As a small business owner, you have the opportunity to make the greatest contribution to your community, flourishing individuals. And that’s good business. 

{Works Cited} 

Cloud, Julia; Nanney,Roger. Deloitte Business Succession Planning. “Family Dynamics and Governance.”


Coffey, O.C.; Tombari, Norma. Ivy Business Journal. July2005. Vol.69. Issue 6, p1-6.


Gibson, Frederick W.; Pason, Amy. Journal of Education for Business. Sept/Oct2003. Vol 79. Issue 1.


Kaiser,Robert B.; Overfield, Darren V.; The Leadership Value Chain. The Psychologist-Manager Journal.

[1] Cloud, Julia; Nanney,Roger. Deloitte Business Succession Planning. “Family Dynamics and Governance.”

[2] Gibson, Frederick W.; Pason, Amy. Journal of Education for Business. Sept/Oct2003. Vol 79. Issue 1.

[3] Kaiser,Robert B.; Overfield, Darren V.; The Leadership Value Chain. The Psychologist-Manager Journal.

[4] Coffey, O.C.; Tombari, Norma. Ivy Business Journal. July2005. Vol.69. Issue 6, p1-6.