Following is an article that I wrote for the Association of Language Companies (ALC's) monthly newsletter:
Family Business in the Northwest
Mary Majkowski asked me to put together a piece for the newsletter regarding working in a family business; and when Mary asks, you don't say no. In other words, I was happy to oblige my esteemed colleague. :)
Let’s start with some basic info: I'm Rick Antezana, VP of Dynamic Language, a family-owned Language Service Provider that has been in business in the Seattle area since 1985.
As I've gotten to know ALC members through conferences and other association activities, it’s apparent that this particular affliction – that of participating in a business with other family members – is something I have in common with many, many other ALC colleagues. Some of us apparently enjoy the experience much more than others, and I'm happy to count myself among the fortunate few who don't ponder fratricide on a daily basis.
Here's more information on our company to give you some background: Dynamic was originally formed in 1985 by my parents. My father, Ricardo, worked for 20+ years in the airline industry, and my mother, Maria Teresa, was the director for the Seattle branch of a language School. The decision to start their own business wasn’t an easy one, but they jumped in head first, and tried to capitalize on the potential that they saw in the language industry. My older sister, Sandy, was recruited to work for the company early on in its development, while she was still attending college at the University of Washington. Similarly, after my first year of college, I began working part time for Dynamic. And now, almost 25 years after the company was created, we have over 30 full time employees.
So, what works, and what doesn’t? In my humble opinion, a perfect world would include clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each family member. In reality, though, life in a small business dictates that most of us have to wear a lot of hats to ensure that things get done.
On the “what does not work” side, the list starts with bringing personal baggage and history into the office. Unfortunately, Sandy and I have both suffered our share of embarrassing anecdotes being shared with the staff. Thankfully, these situations didn't last forever at our company, but it can be an ongoing challenge for a lot of people to compartmentalize personal and professional lives.
Something that I believe works well, is strong leadership from up top. And by that, I mean even-handed, clear definition of tasks, and clear delegation, especially to family members. Easy to do? No, but worth the effort.
Luckily, we collectively realize how fortunate we are with this opportunity to work together, and we’ll continue to try and apply the lessons we’ve learned over the years, hopefully for generations to come. Speaking of which, I’m happy to report that as of this summer, we have three generations of the family involved at Dynamic!