Giving Thanks for the Family, In All Its Forms
In research associated with a possible book about family businesses, we have found that in our mainstream culture there is a social narrative of the family as a unit where the couple’s income comes from outside the family. The family is stereotypically conceptualized as a wife with a child bearing and raising role and a husband who is primarily responsible for the family’s financial well-being. While this has changed somewhat in those cultures where women are increasingly better educated, more independent, and have access to birth control, there are still many lingering issues.
One of those issues is a strong notion that most new entrepreneurial ventures start with energies that evolve outside the family. One surprise in our findings was that at the heart of many new business ventures that start within the family was a founder-couple. This was the case in most of the successful family businesses we have been studying.
In many cases a new entrepreneurial business is literally started on the kitchen table where the wife would play a major role in the business and product development. We reviewed stories that described how women, formally or informally, were instrumental in the strategic development and risk assessment that ultimately made the business successful.
In this sense, the family is many times not only a romantic and emotional union but also a business partnership. This is one of an increasing number of situations that give good reason to challenge the more traditional notion of the family unit. To the extent that these ventures bring the family closer together, they may provide new paths to family unity and success in a changing world.