“Family Owned and Operated” I’m sure you have seen those words used in business advertising. Maybe you have used them yourself. I’ve heard horror stories about working a family owned business, but for us, it has really been a good thing. Working in a family business has really drawn our family together, it’s taught our children some life lessons that they would be hard pressed to learn any other way.
Lesson #1, Work is Good- Lots of people complain about their jobs, “I don’t get paid enough.” “It’s boring!” “I’m not appreciated for what I do.” “These long hours are killing me!” But I love window cleaning. I guess it’s because I can quickly see the fruits of my labors and others see them and really appreciate clean windows. It also probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m always challenging myself on my speed and accuracy. And when people see me, they also see in my face the satisfaction I get from doing a good job. In fact when I notice them watching me, my showmanship comes out and they get a good show for free. When my children were young, I took them to some of my commercial accounts from time to time. They would see me with a squeegee in one hand and a strip washer in the other. I would tell them I was ‘cutting down the mountain.’ Have you ever heard that term? Some people call it the Swirl, Super Swirl, the S Stroke, or whatever. And those are fitting terms. But at one point in my window cleaning process, you can actually see a ‘snow’ capped mountain. (It’s really detergent that is in the shape of a mountain peak. But in my children’s imaginations, they saw a squeegee as a magic skier cutting down the mountain.) They impulsively, almost uncontrollably wanted to cut down the mountain too! I would tell them, well when you get a little older you can cut down the mountain too. They almost begged me to let them. So I would say, “Ok, you can make the mountain, but I’ll have to cut it down.” I would let them use the strip washer to ‘make the mountain’ and I would squeegee it away. Finally one day my oldest son said, “Dad, I think I’m old enough to cut down the mountain now.” I think he must have been about eight years old. I thought I should at least let him try, he’s been watching me do it just about all his life and even if he messes up, I can always fix his mess. I let him try on one small window. Well, I just couldn’t believe my eyes! He actually used both hands. In one he had a strip washer to suds up the window and in the other he had a squeegee and, besides the need to detail a little bit, he had a perfectly clean window at EIGHT YEARS OLD! The long and the short of it is that all three of my children, my two boys and their older sister became fantastic window cleaners. They all three had learned a skill and more importantly, they learned to enjoy work.
Lesson #2, Responsibility (Life is not a free ride)- “Clean up your room, make your bed, get your school work done…” Maybe you have threatened and cajoled your little ones with those same words. I know I have. Still, when my children wanted their own window cleaning routes, I worried that they weren’t responsible enough to handle their own routes. But they rose to the occasion. They got up early in the morning and worked a full day (most of the time). They bought their own cars by working in the family business. So they had a responsibility to pay for their insurance, gas, licenses, and up keep too. Money doesn’t grow on trees you know. I never was that doting father who bought my kids anything and everything they wanted. They had to work for it. And work for it they did. Usually they had far more money than their peers. But they didn’t spend it all on toys. We taught them to budget and save and to be thrifty with their money. They are also generous in helping others less fortunate than themselves. My daughter can sling a squeegee with the best of them. But she also learned another skill in the family business. My wife taught her to keep the books. My wife was a professional accountant long before we married, so my daughter learned the responsibility of keeping all our books. We have two window cleaning companies. So our daughter had to get really good at what she was doing. And she did!
Lesson #3, Self esteem- Teenage years can be brutal. Some kids can really be down on themselves. I recently asked my son what he learned working from our family business. He fondly remembered how when he was a teenager working in the local shopping mall that he often drew crowds who enjoyed watching him on his window cleaning round. Nothing builds self esteem like doing your usual work and drawing a crowd who are amazed at your skill and finesse. Besides, there’s something memorizing about watching a skillful window cleaner squeegee a window clean. And then to have someone tell you, ‘you clean windows like an artist,’ well that’s a shot of verbal self esteem right there. There are other life lessons they learned like Team Work (Learning to work with others), Leadership (directing and managing a crew), Contentment (money is important, but it’s not the most important thing in life. Or as the Bible says at Ecclesiastes 7:12, “For wisdom is for protection [the same as] money is for a protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.”) Safety first (Razors are sharp, but ladders can maim or even kill a person). For some, running a family owned business has been extremely difficult, but for us, a family owned and operated business has been a really good thing. It was not always easy, but it taught our children important lessons & drew us closer together as a family. Maybe you have your own favorite family business stories. I would love to hear about them!
Robert Lamb http://www.robswindowcleaning.com/