Family Business Problems? Ira Bryck, Solutions!


IF YOU WORK WITH FAMILY, how respectful are your disagreements? do you characterize one another (you’re always so cheap and shortsighted)? or communicate that you understand their perspective (you’re concerned about staying within the ratios in our loan agreement)? ARE YOU A MERITOCRACY (cream rises to the top) or a safety net (we must support the most unqualified among us)? IS THE COMPANY YOUR PLAYTHING (just charge it to the business) or are you a steward for the future (here it is, sharper than when I got it)? DO YOU LEAVE TIME AND SPACE for these topics, or are you too “busy”?

It’s not easy parenting adult children, especially if that incorrigible kid is YOUand you’re attempting to become that mature, calm, resolved grown up who is so elusive, when you’re feeling plagued by immaturity; upset that your parents just didn’t launch you so great.

You might try forgiving, forgetting, relating, reframing, but if you still feel like your inner child will not make peace with your outer aging self, what to do!?
We all have our different strategies, but for me, it helps to witness, as neutrally as I can, what I’m feeling and thinking, and ask good questions, like “what is little Ira really feeling here? and what can grown up Ira do to help?”
It helps me to see my younger self as the unwitting and vulnerable recipient of some unconscious treatment by people who might have known better, but may have been doing the best they could.
My parents had all the right intentions I’m sure, but just as every parent (including me) have been shocked to hear their parents’ worst selves come out of their mouths, I’m sure my parents occasionally channelled our Neanderthal ancestors on a regular basis.
It also helps me to take a patient, caring look at myself, to discover who I am as a person, and accept that I’m never going to be the adult I think I should look like. The odds of me becoming that ideal human are quite low; and the odds that I have may have chosen to be the person I am are somewhat higher.
Can I make peace with myself? I grew up in the age of “finding myself” and now that I’ve been searching for 65 years, I have to say, I kind of accept myself, even approve of myself. Not in a haughty way. More in a compassionate, realistic way.
I don’t see where I’ve “become” an adult, and the idea is constraining to me. It’s more like “this is what Ira Bryck is like at 65. I’m not sure if I even want to be adult, as in “fully developed and mature.”
Mature, as in “having completed a final state.”
If your business is “mature” that means it “achieved a low but stable growth rate” — also nothing desired by any business owner planning on being stimulated by their work, presumably not stimulating/innovating it too much, either.
In conclusion, I’m happy to say I’m more in touch with, and more at peace with, both my inner child and my outer me than I ever thought possible. I’m not as “laid back” as I often dreamed to be; but I agree with Woody Allen, who says “if you mellow too much, you ripen and rot.”

I’m glad to say I have some longevity genes going for me, so I look forward to the upcoming decades as an opportunity for continuous improvement, even as nature has its way with me.

In the story of your life, you are the starbut in everyone else’s story, might you be anything from a supporting role, to the wacky neighbor, maybe even the villain?
We only know what we’re told, and that’s little enough. And for all we know it isn’t even true.”

InRosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, two men who are minor characters in Hamlet are the leads, and Hamlet the small part.

I recently heard the story from a member of a well known family business, about how badly he was treated, even as he tried to save the day. He was intelligent, sane, believable. But we hadn’t heard the other side, from those who reportedly thought he was horrible, and deserved every bad thing.
At that same conference, I presented a session where- in 90 minutes- three people took a turn in the “hot seat,” told about a challenge they face, selected other attendees to play the antagonists to their protagonists. We made the point that in the head of those others, they are the protagonists (who shit happens to) and you might be their antagonist (doing shit to them, for some inexplicable reason).
Even if you’re not Dr. Evil, inflicting pain on your acquaintances, you have to imagine that somewhere, somebody is laying blame at your feet. Or you may just be a functionary, not a whole person, to somebody who needs you to simply perform a task for their benefit.
What an insult, what a trap, to only be a pawn on someone else’s chessboard!
What kinds of consciousness raising can happen for you and others, so that you rise above the selfish transactions, where you are in a sub-par relationship, not seeing each other fully, being misunderstood, diminished, compromised?
You have so much in common! for instance, you both are thinking “how and why are you doing this to me?”
Life is a deep ocean, where we are all in over our heads, and it takes a lot more to keep your head above water than we usually muster.
I’m just saying.

Does your work feed your soul? 
soul food
Should it?
Why should it not?
If there is work to be done that will fill you up, make use of your natural gifts, help you make the world a better place, why settle for a job that you need to justify with “that’s why they pay me the big bucks.”
Especially if you’re the one generating the payroll.
Though you may be in one of those too-common situations where you adore what you do, but hate keeping the books, working with your dumb old sister, and China makes it just as good for a fraction of the cost.
Still, you’re your own boss, have only one life to live, and are the only person who can totally reinvent yourself. Take inspiration from the many people who bravely went where no you has gone before. Hire a bookkeeper, today! Have that frank talk with your sister, that it’s not her, it’s you! Take a month off and study all kinds of people who figured out how to compete, by making it different, better, faster, et al.
Life is short (having just turned 65, I am faced with the fact that I’m in the home stretch, even if I make it to 100), and not only will you not say “I should have spent more time in the office” — you’ll also say “I should have taken the risk to do what I love, not just keep trying to love what I do.”
It could be that your current situation is the best possible work of your life, and you should “love the one you’re with.” But you don’t realize it. Take stock of the situation, by asking: how can I tweak the way I do this, to make it more relaxing? how can I reframe some stuff, ie: instead of my head exploding from stress, say “I’m grateful to be faced with the urgency that will force me to improve.” Instead of saying “I’m quitting as president to spend more time with my family” how about just spend more time with your family? Instead of asking “what would Richard Branson do?” figure out what the best you would do, and do it!
Life is too short for business as usual. And long enough that you will discover that business as usual won’t last long. You got into this business because you’re brave. Be brave.
ALSO, see below, for some excellent forums and workshops. We gather those very people who bravely go where they haven’t been before. Hanging out with them will rub off. And you on them, which is good for all.
You can register for all our upcoming stuff by clicking here. If you’re not yet a member of the FBCPV, we’d love to have you take a look, as our guests.


Do you have a secret sauce in your business? 
You may not realize it, making it even secret from you.
Because the research on talents and strengths (Gallup/ Buckingham) suggests one mark of a strength is that you think it’s nothing special.
Or you may think it’s not a talent, but just the endless stuff you do, to not fail. John P. Kotter, author of “A Sense of Urgency” might say that really uncomfortable feeling you have that it’s kill or be killed is what’s keeping you alive.
Though you may have much in common with other nutty people who choose to start and run a company, there are many varieties of secret sauce.
Imagine meeting them, all in a room (ie: at our events!!), and finding that a bit of theirs, mixed in with yours, increases the octane enough for you to achieve lift off.
This is, as we just discussed in our new business book club, the root of creativity. NOT coming up with something totally new, but recombining ingredients, connecting ideas, looking from a different angle, realizing your old paradigm needs a trade-in. As Henry Ford may or may not have said, most of his customers would have been happy with a faster horse. But that would not have solved the poop problem, or that it took 3 days to get to Albany.
Our center is a legal cheat, a shortcut, a place where business owners have agreed to reveal themselves, so that entrepreneurs at every age and stage, in many fields, can explore their current secrets of success, and how to build it into your own personal next version.
As a business owner, you have an obligation to do more than business as usual. That obligation is to your employees, your customers, your partners, and also to yourself. It’s not sustainable to keep on keeping on.
On April 20th, our Friday morning workshop aims to restart the fire in the belly that you had when you first founded the business. Join 19 other business owner / managers in a discovery with Paul Silva, co-founder of Valley Venture Mentors and now Launch 413 and Lean Innovation Institute. Contact me to register, and find out more.
On April 24, our dinner forum is the first ever Pecha Kucha night in Pioneer Valley. Come hear 11 talks, each 6 minutes and 40 seconds, where business owners share their passion with 20 images, each for 20 seconds. It will be the ultimate edutainment event.
Get in touch, including to tell me you’re coming to both of those!



A few years back I was helping an organization, and while I was just sitting and observing on the shop floor, an employee came up to me and said “It offends me that you say we should improve. It’s like you’re saying we’re not good enough.”

I responded that if there was something in my tone that sounded disapproving, I apologize. But also, if we don’t improve, we’d still be living in caves, taking turns keeping jackals away.

The idea of improving, if a dictionary definition means anything, is rooted in Old French and Latin for “make a profit, and increase the value of.”

So if a business owner isn’t involved in improvement, they will not own a business for long.

As I say way too often, every business has the same goal: solve your customer’s problem. But as others are also trying to solve that problem, your big job is to solve your own problem, that yesterday’s solution is so yesterday.

You don’t want to come off as hard to please, but if your employees don’t see you as a bit obsessed about getting smarter, cheaper, better, faster, they will soon not be your employees.

What do you do to continuously challenge your status quo? How do you get out of your own way, to see things through the eyes of a customer? through the eyes of a new problem solver? through the eyes of someone who’s starting over? through the eyes of someone with unlimited resources?

Can you dedicate a certain amount of time to get your whole team to 10,000 feet? To bring in a 4th grade class to suggest new ways of doing everything? To have a swap of employees from a company in another industry, to see how they see it?

To commit to having your key people partake in a business book reading group? Have a training exercise about starting a new and different company together? Perchance, become members of the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley?

It’s a very normal condition to get into a rut that is good enough. It’s kind of the way our brain works, keeping us out of danger, keeping us safe.

But I invite you climb out of that rut, and would be glad to meet and discuss it. And I invite you to take a closer look at what we offer at the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley. If interested, get in touch!!



Your STORY is your BRAND is your PROMISE 

Who knew, when you went into business, that who you are and how you do what you do would constitute a promise to your customer, and they might choose to do business with you, or not, based on that.

So it follows that you need to be very aware of what that promise is, or how your customer perceives it, and what you’re doing or not doing to build that promise.

I say this every so often, that when I ran my family’s 4th generation store, that more than once a customer said to me “you know why we shop here? because we want to give YOU our money!”

I definitely make purchasing choices like that. I can buy books, shoes, toothpaste, meals anywhere. I want a good experience of doing that, unless I save 75% by spending my money with a real son of a gun. Even then, I don’t feel good about it. They say that rich people, who have every item they could possibly want, spend on experiences. But we all do. I want a better experience of buying a cup of coffee. When I’m in that endless cycle of “please pay me, so I can him, so he can pay you” I want to send my money on a path of people and organizations I feel good about.

So assuming that many people feel like this (who knows? I may be the only one), it’s worth your while to work on being that person, running that company, that is that brand, that promise, that story, that people feel good about.

In the end, it may earn you customers you feel better about. My father used to occasionally say to a problem shopper “I wish I had 10 customers like you… too bad that I have 30.”


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