When somebody mentions "the Family Business" I think of a well dressed, old and skinny Italian man with a scratchy voice and has a name like Tony or Sammy. My Grandfather, who I've mentioned in some of my other articles, definitely fits the bill. With just one glass of a good Chianti wine, you might find him in our garden patio, rocking back and forth, singing Italian love songs for hours. He was indeed a short, skinny guy, who talked in a voice very similar to the Godfather and at the age of 80 he still had a full head of gray hair. Give him a mandolin and it was almost like being in an old Italian movie.
Well let me get back to what "Family" means to me in a Family Business (beyond that old Italian theme). It doesn't matter whether it's an automotive service business, like Sandy and I operate, or a cleaning business, a landscaping business, or even a street sweeping business. You see, when Grandpa owned businesses in his younger days, it was his name, his word, and his values that he was offering. He wasn't fixing transmissions, brakes, or air conditioning like we do. Grandpa was painting murals on grocery store windows. But like us, he knew if he didn't deliver good quality work for his customers, his name would be ruined and he might have a hard time finding work - especially in a tight nit New England town. That's why I like working with businesses here in Austin that are family owned. Businesses that are family owned are much more likely to stand behind what they do because they're offering far more than a product, their offering the meaning of their word and their reputation.
In the automotive business, a family owned business is more than just an automotive repair facility. A family owner, and his hand picked team, can be "trusted" advisors of what you "don't" need to do as well as what you might want to do now to avoid bigger problems down the road. They'll get to know you and your car so they remember what was worked on last time and how the problems you may have experienced before fit with what's happening now (or not). It doesn't matter whether you're fixing transmissions, brakes, or air conditioning, or your fixing a dishwasher. Family owners tend to care and so many are so very trustworthy.
Family owned automotive repair is much like a family doctor and his trusted nurse practitioner and small administrative staff. In a big hospital conglomerate where Dr's might be overworked and see you once or twice in an emergency room, they aren't going to care about you as much as Dr. Mulligan who will be with you for years as your family doctor and knows you and your family's names and watched your kids grow. In addition, although the hospital doctor might ask you a few questions about what happened to you in the past, he's really not going to put it together the same as Dr. Mulligan who was there treating your family's health issues with you.
I guess that kind of sums it up for how I feel about family businesses. Many small businesses are indeed family businesses, so when you hear somebody say they are a small business, you may very well be hearing somebody offering the luxury of a family business. More than likely, it will be a business from which you'll enjoy years of great service.