Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."
- Hal Borland

My New Year's resolutions:
  • I will follow my heart, listen to my gut and do what I feel is right.
  • I will be open to learning from every person I meet and every interaction I have.
  • I will look people in the eye.
  • I will put my true loves—my wife and my children—above all else, continuing to shed the malign values instilled by the family business.
  • I will believe in myself and in my capabilities, further healing my injured self-image.
  • I will be proud.
  • I will continue to share whatever knowledge I gain with whoever is willing to listen.
  • And lastly, to you—the reader, the leaver—I will continue to offer my support whenever needed...

...that's a promise.

Happy New Year!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Curriculum Vitae

Yes, your CV is "problematic". It took me nearly 2 months to get to a version I was happy with.

It started with 3 pages, somehow I got it down to 2, and eventually managed to pack my 13 years and 5 (main) positions neatly into 1 page. It was tough. And lingering, as always, was the sense that these positions and experience weren't really "real". I didn't really earn these like anybody else would. I mean, I was probably promoted because I was the son-of-the-boss not because of anything else, right? (Wrong! And you should really get rid of that feeling.)

I bet that you worked extra hard *because* you were the son of the boss. I'm guessing that—like me—you too walked around with the feeling that you had to prove yourself a little more, work a little harder, run the extra mile because of your lineage.

I am also guessing that when no one is looking you will admit that you are good (if not great) at what you do. Bear this in mind when you set out to write the CV.

Now, a few pointers:

  • Decide what is the job/profession you want to pursue.
  • Read bullet 1 again. It is very important that you decide because it is the only tool you have to distill your overloaded CV. If you were the company software developer and the company accountant, decide if your future is in software or in bookkeeping, then tone the other down. If software is where your heart lies, then be only the company software developer (you can mention your bookkeeping skills in the interview if it comes up).
  • Even if you spent 13 years in the same place, no one needs to know that it was in a family business. Leave this for the interview (it will come up anyway). Think of yourself as a regular employee and describe your positions/promotions from that perspective.
  • Don't put it all out there. Leave some meat for the interview.
and most importantly:
  • Don't feel that you need to excuse the fact that you worked in a family business. On the contrary! Be very proud of your time there. It probably gave you a wider perspective on business in general, and allowed you to experience the intricacies of running a company. And most importantly it shows that you have character, loyalty and ability to do hard meaningful work burned into your DNA.

-- This one's for K. Good luck, my friend!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Brothers and sisters

Working in a family business doesn't only mean that you are working for your dad. It also means that you work with your siblings.

In my case it was my younger brother, and to make things even more interesting: I was his direct manager.

This created some pretty difficult situations (as you can imagine). On one occasion, he bad-mouthed me to another team member, telling him that I was a not good (I'll spare you the language) manager. I had to hear about this later from the team member. Another time, during a weekly department meeting he started yelling at me—in front of the team—for assigning him a certain task...

It was just another layer of unneeded complexity, and the "cherry-on-top": my dad would side with my brother laying into me for mismanaging him.

It's a shame because eventually it takes a toll on your relationship with your brother(s) outside the business. There's no avoiding it.

A real shame.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Season's Greetings

Merry Christmas! May your stockings be stuffed with presents!
Happy Hanukkah! May your pockets jingle with gelt!
Happy Kwanzaa! May you receive meaningful zawadi!

How ever you celebrate, I hope you enjoy a peaceful and joyfully time with the people who matter most.

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Second thoughts

Having second thoughts is a natural part of the process. I had plenty them.

I remember sitting in the car one day thinking to myself: "Why do this? look at the pain this is causing everyone... And what about the uncertainty: What are you planning to do outside the business? Do you really want to start all over, possibly starting from a lower position? And what about the money issues? So much uncertainty, we should really just give up. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't, right?! Let's turn this ship around and head back."

But back to what? Is the "devil you know" really that better?

The answer is no. And the truth is that there is no devil "outside". It's all a trick your lizard brain is playing on you, working overtime to get you back to the known, to conform to the norm. It craves comfort, loathes change.

The trick is to look out for this. Spot it when it happens. Understand where it comes from and accept that it's part of the process, then let it go and continue with the original plan.