By Kenzi Knapp
What does your family business have to do with a tree? Nothing much (unless you sell maple syrup), but the tree makes a helpful analogy of something we often forget: family businesses go through seasons. For young families who may be wondering what lies ahead, I’d like to share with you the seasons we’ve gone through in our personal family businesses.
The Seed Season
This is by far my least favorite season. It’s tough. It made our family cry, wring our wallets, and wonder where our brains were vacationing when we jumped into this dud of an idea. Too often we expect instant garden results: plant it in the spring, harvest it before the snow flies. But remember, we’re planting trees, not veggies. Some trees grow faster, some slower. But all require a season of watering, cultivating, and toiling with no visible reward.
Faith. It’s the all-important ingredient during this season of the family business. If you’re currently here, I stretch both hands out to you. With one, I put my arm around you and sympathize with what you’re going through. With the other I hand you encouragement. Press forward. As my mother loves to say, “This too shall pass.” As much as it may feel like it, this season won’t last forever. Seeds do grow if you stay faithful. I promise.
The Root Season
The root season is when your little sapling business finally bursts from the soil and finds a will to live. You have a little income coming in and people are becoming interested in your product. Yeah! But in the excitement of your sapling showing its baby head, don’t forget the most important work is still under the soil; in particular, roots and relationships. Like a tree needs deep roots to support its trunk and eventual boughs, so our business needs a sturdy foundation to hold the coming fruit.
When we see a little bit of success, it’s tempting to start going too wide in our service or product offers. Don’t do it! At least, not yet. We want lasting fruit, not flash success that fades because it has no foundation. Focus on being the best in one or two areas and wait to expand as your roots can take the load.
This is also the season to focus on relationships. So let’s say your kids are your crew in selecting garden produce for the Farmer’s Market. Invest in their training and your relationship with them so when business expands, you’ll know how to work as a team. So five customers are your faithful few? Treat them like you started this business just for them, and you’ll be amazed what doors simple kindness will open for you.
The Branching Season
If you become really good at what you do, you won’t just have to find opportunities to branch out; they’ll find you. That’s why it’s important to firmly know what needs you are trying to meet in your market. The constant questions a family must always ask are: What is our vision? What need are we trying to fill that no one else is filling?” This will help you graft in opportunities that will serve your vision and weed out ones that won’t.
The Fruit Season
Oh, the fruit! There’s the harvest of your family truly making a difference and the joy when your “happy customer” page fills like a cornucopia of thankful people who want to share their experience with family and friends.
Reflecting on my family’s businesses as a child, it was this fruit which convinced me that work is a joy. Creating something that touches others is a reward all in itself. The tree has reached maturity and provides fruit and shade for all.
After spending her childhood homesteading and working various family businesses with her parents, Kenzi loves to encourage families in their work. A homeschool graduate currently enrolled in God’s Great Course of Faith, Kenzi lives with her family in the gorgeous Ozarks. She enjoys writing, biking, playing the piano and mountain ocarina, studying history and encouraging young women to build Christ-centered cottage trades at her blog, Honey Rock Hills.