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Articles - The Entrepreneurial Personality

Achieving Harmony in the Family Business

Thursday, March 04, 1999




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


In January I was a speaker at the annual conference of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship in San Diego. There were other presentations at the conference that were interesting and helpful too, but the one that really caught my attention was a panel of CEOs from successful family firms in the San Diego area. The title of the seminar was "What do family firms want from consultants?" The panelists discussed their most pressing concerns and the one that topped the list was how to create harmony among family members who work together. Although legal, financial and business consultants abound, these CEOs felt that they already had those matters covered. What they really want help with is communication and relationship skill building to create a meaningful and harmonious family/work life.

It's not hard to understand why this is so important to these California CEOs, as well as those of you living in the Northwest. It's one thing to run a successful enterprise, but if you have failed in your marriage, or you have alienated your siblings, or you have intimidated your children, then who do you share your successes with? Achieving harmony in personal relationships requires skill, time and commitment. As if that isn't enough, accomplishing these goals is that much more difficult when you also work with the ones you love, which requires negotiating a business relationship as well as a personal one.

I have reported before on the research showing that entrepreneurs will spend exorbitant amounts of time at work and short their families. Entrepreneurs (both male and female by the way) are willing to work early and late almost every day, but rarely will they report to work late or leave early. Perhaps once a month, they may leave the office early on a Friday night to be with their families. Yet in spite of this entrepreneurs will tell you that their loved ones are more important to them than their work. It's just that work is more compelling. Taking just one more phone call or putting the finishing touches to that important contract, or even solving an employee morale problem come before attending to the interpersonal relationships of CEOs in family firms.

When family members work together, it often turns into all work and no play.

The personal side of the family/business relationship is taken for granted. There seems to be a belief that "because we love each other and because we are family," there is endless tolerance and support for work at the expense of the relationship. Apparently this lack of attention to the personal side is what ruined the Hanshaw brothers. While in southern California at the conference, I happened to read an Orange County newspaper and learned of the bitter feud between Jack and Randy Hanshaw. The brothers had been in business together for years, along with several other family members. They each had outside interests as well. Together and separately they amassed a fortune. Starting out as a milkman in the 1960s, Jack started buying liquor stores and then strip malls. His brother Randy soon discovered the untapped potential of Arizona real estate. Each invested in the other's business and made it possible for others in the family to create wealth as well.

However, in 1994 Jack accused his brother Randy of cheating him and started a lawsuit. Randy hired his brother-in-law for his attorney, furthering the feuding within the family. In spite of repeated efforts to resolve the suit, it degenerated into "a highly emotional, mean-spirited war of brother against brother, with money no longer the real object" according to the judge involved. Because the brothers could not settle their dispute, the judge ruled to dissolve the partnership and appointed a reciever to divide the $6 million in property.

The receivership was humiliating enough for the brothers, but so enraged was Jack Hanshaw that he offered a $100,000 bribe to the reciever. Of course he was reported to the judge who then fined Jack another $700,000 for the criminal act. Oddly enough, it was discovered that Jack was the actual cheating brother. Not only did he attempt to bribe the receiver, a local bankruptcy attorney (and also my brother-in-law) but he had taken $500,000 of his brother Randy's money!
How do these things happen? They happen when minute problems are ignored and business comes first. Left unresolved these minute problems grow into small issues, which grow into average-sized resentments, then expanding into large stone walls of bitterness. Brothers who shared the same bedroom as children grow into the bitterest of enemies, willing to do whatever it takes to get revenge.

How can these things be prevented? Obviously at the point where the Hanshaw brothers are, there is no turning back. They may never again be able to enjoy each other's company. And sadly for the rest of the family, because the line has been drawn and sides have been taken, the entire family may never again be whole. But for those of you reading this column, prevention is simple if you follow the suggestions listed below. Remember that if you work in a family firm, most of your interactions with your family involve work. You need to give at least equal time to the personal side to keep communication, trust, love and respect healthy.

  1. Take time away from work every day to talk with your family/business partners about something other than work. You might start the morning with coffee and sharing the crossword puzzle.
  2. At least quarterly, arrange a retreat for the family firm that involves playing, such as a trip to the mountains to ski.
  3. Discuss all problems no matter how small, whether they are work issues or not.
  4. Allow for individual differences. Allow members to speak up in disagreement. Just because you are family and work together, does not mean you are all joined at the hip. So make room for new and different opinions and ways of doing things.
  5. Hang in there when there is a problem. Don't give up until you have a solution to the problem that is a winning one for everyone.
  6. If things get out of hand, ask for professional help.

Families are composed of individuals who love each other and have a commitment to take care of each other. Businesses are composed of individuals too, but there is not always the same level of either caring or commitment. When you combine family and business the values of this hybrid may be confusing for people. Keep the rules clear. Healthy loving relationships should always come before business needs, just as those CEOs in San Diego realized. If you are communicating openly and loving unconditionally, then family members in family firms should be able to grow successful family/businesses.

Women entrepreneurs: Are they different from men?

Thursday, February 18, 1999




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


All entrepreneurs face barriers to achievement; in fact, this is probably a major defining characteristic of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs by their very nature thrive on a challenging, even inhospitable environment. Still the challenges faced by entrepreneurial women are different from those faced by men, and further shape their destinies.

For example, a male entrepreneur often has not only the emotional support of his wife but her unpaid help in the business as well. A female entrepreneur on the other hand, does not have the benefit of her husband's unpaid help.

Typically, the husband is emotionally supportive, but it is up to the wife to manage her business as well as her child-care and household duties, while he works outside the business. Debbie Fields of "Mrs. Field's Cookies" fame had such a marriage. Although her husband was remarkably supportive of his wife's enterprise for many years, he acknowledged that he would withdraw his support if she failed to meet her obligations as a wife and mother.

In spite of this barrier, women entrepreneurs are starting businesses at ever-increasing rates --- and are succeeding, too. But they are using unconventional methods of business management.

For example, women entrepreneurs rarely have formal operational policies, formal planning processes, or formal job descriptions. These relaxed standards may be a result of their lack of formal business management education; however, they are not interfering with their success. Women entrepreneurs are obviously making an impact on the American economy.

The relaxed style of management can also be seen in how women entrepreneurs treat their employees, suppliers, and customers. They seem to prefer a more people-oriented style.

According to a 1993 study of entrepreneurial women in Oregon, women entrepreneurs blend their personal and their business identities. They base their management of the business on relationships rather than on the development of business plans. Employees are considered friends. Family and spouse supports are elements without which the woman would not consider an entrepreneurial venture.

Rather than network within the traditional business organizations, entrepreneurial women rely on strong personal relationships with their customers and vendors. These findings led behavioralists to describe the business orientation of entrepreneurial women as a "web of interconnected relationships." This web philosophy shows up in the problems common to women entrepreneurs, such as how to deal with the differences between themselves and their husbands, and to how to balance home life and work life.

For example, Sarah came up to me after a presentation I had made on entrepreneurial couples, and she complained that her marriage and business had been suffering since her husband, Buck, quit his job and came to work for her. Sarah started her business in her home as a way to supplement the family income. She made gourmet popcorn. As demand for her popcorn increased, she branched out and started selling other gourmet treats (gift baskets of nuts, popcorn, and chocolates, cookie bouquets, and so on).

Soon the business required her efforts full-time. She hired staff and rented a professional kitchen, warehouse, and office space.

Although Sarah did not ask her husband to join her, he quit his job in order to do so. She gladly accepted his offer at first, but all too soon the trouble started. Buck continued to think of Sarah's business as a part-time endeavor. He worked short hours, leaving most afternoons to go fishing with his friends. In spite of his lack of commitment, he would make major decisions for the business without consulting Sarah.

It was clear that Buck had been unhappy in his career in agricultural sales and saw Sarah's business as a way out. He wasn't really committed to the business, although he supported his wife emotionally. Instead, he saw the business as a way to support his own early semi-retirement. When Sarah realized that Buck was not really an entrepreneur, she needed to make a decision about how to take the business back and still save her marriage.

Sarah represents only one style of entrepreneurship for women and only one way that women entrepreneurs are affecting the ones they love. As women gain in confidence, as they encounter career barriers such as the glass ceiling in corporate life, and as their husbands adopt a more egalitarian attitude and approach in marriage, we are seeing more and more women embarking on entrepreneurial careers either as solo entrepreneurs, as dual entrepreneurs, or as copreneurs.

Regardless of entrepreneurial style, these women are reporting that they are highly satisfied with their lives and wouldn't arrange them any other way. In other words, working from a web of interconnected relationships, entrepreneurial women want personal achievement just as entrepreneurial men do.

Resolutions for a New Century: The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection

Thursday, February 11, 1999




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


As thrilling as it is for the members of entrepreneurial couples to have a partner as dedicated to career and business as they are, this style also produces more stress than other marital styles. Not only do entrepreneurial couples have the normal stressors that plague all career-minded Americans, such as the competing demands of love and work, but they have the added stress of having these domains of life overlap considerably. Working long hours, working out of your homes, or working and living with your spouse/business partner twenty-four hours a day leaves little time to recuperate inner strength. As the stress increases and the opportunity for recuperation diminishes, many entrepreneurial couples fall victim to stress related illnesses, mental or emotional problems, chemical dependency, and spiritual despair.
The process of losing your health (physical, psychological, interpersonal or otherwise) begins long before symptoms develop. The stress process begins the moment you allow any part of your life to be out of alignment. If one system (such as your body, your marriage, your work, etc.) is unattended or allowed to stay out of healthy alignment for too long, it affects the other systems which in turn produce stress and deterioration. In order to keep your dynamic systems in healthy productive alignment, entrepreneurial couples need to attend to and take care of the whole person, in relationship to other whole people, in relationship to the whole business entity. In other words, you cannot really separate the mind, body and spirit. These are not separate distinct parts of yourself, but interacting developing progressions, just as the other systems (i.e., family, friends, coworkers, employees, customers) of which you are a part.
The basic components that makes us human are the mind, the body and the life force or essence that some call spirit. Unresolved stress in any one of these areas will affect the other areas, leading to a breakdown in your functioning as an entrepreneur, a spouse, a parent, a colleague and so on. If you are going to manage the excessive stresses of entrepreneurial life you actually need more stamina than the average person. To combat the pressures caused by the competing demands of love and work and to build the necessary stamina for this complex lifestyle, you must build a power plan to maintain and enhance your health not just physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. In this short article, I will focus on the development of your spiritual power plan, taking for granted for the moment that your mind and body are well cared for. Even if this last assumption is not true, too little attention is paid to the spiritual component of entrepreneurial life and I want to correct that error.
Spirit or spirituality are not synonymous with religion or religious. Church has nothing to do with spirituality directly. Rather the spirit is that part of each human that makes us a distinctive personality. It is the part of us that defines us and yet connects us to others. It has long been known that a strong healthy spirit will guide us successfully through adversity, whereas a conquered spirit will succumb to illness and death. It was Mother Theresa's strong spirit that transcended her small stature and seemingly insignificant role as a nun to profoundly affect thousands of people for the better. Conversely, It is the conquered spirit that explains the powerful effects of subtle forms of brain washing in prisoner-of-war camps. In other words, spirit is that singular life force that directs and shapes our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Therefore, keeping spirit or life force healthy is essential to the process of achieving healthy balance in any life. For entrepreneurial couples especially, the key to effective stress management is the proper alignment and interaction of a healthy mind, a healthy body, and a healthy spirit.

Remember that spirit is not bound by religion. Many successful entrepreneurial couples do not belong to a church nor any religion, but they do have a strong sense of spirit and they do believe in God. According to Gallup Polls as recent as 1997, 90% of Americans believe in God. The spirit connection is not just a belief in God but the ability to relate to God, often through communities such as churches provide. The healthiest Americans are among those religious groups who have a strong identity with their church. For example Matthews and Koenig reported in 1997 that even if you control for dietary practices, Mormons, Jews and Seventh Day Adventists are healthier than other Americans. These three religious groups are known for their strong sense of religious community. Therefore, it is not the religion, per se, that contributes to overall health, but the intensity of the commitment to spirit whether by being a member of a religious community or by maintaining a spiritual connection in some other way.

Although most Americans believe in God, many of us are prone to have fragmented and impersonal lives, which leads to hedonism, increasing drug addiction and other health problems. Spirituality in the sense of the expression of our spirit, is not a regular part of our lives because so many of us have abandoned religion. According to Kabbani, a physician and author on Islamic spiritual healing practices, religion gives us something to believe in, an identity, a way to know ourselves in relation to others. Churches, therefore, provide a community within which to know ourselves, to belong, to repair our fragmented lives.
Many entrepreneurial couples list church attendance as the last thing on their list of things to do. After all, you are busy, busy people, working 49-60 hours a week. When would you find the time? You barely have a few moments to eat a quick meal and watch television before falling into bed at the end of your day. However, if you really want to create a balance among intimacy, family life and meaningful work, you need to repair the third leg of the mind - body - spirit connection. (Furthermore if you want to live long enough to experience the fruits of your labors you might want to reconsider the use of television as an expedient stress reliever. According to Matthews and Koenig, there is a positive correlation between television watching and mortality. In other words, the more you watch TV, the shorter your life.)

Einstein once said, "Religion without science is blind. Science without religion is lame." As we move into this last year of the twenty century we are realizing the truth of this statement more and more. Entrepreneurial couples are not different from other people on the planet. We are part of something much more than the sum of the parts. Those who embrace their spirit connection are finding greater health and prosperity and science is starting to prove it. For example, in a Duke University study by Herb Koenig, elderly patients who are regular church attenders stayed in the hospital a shorter length of time (ten days on average) than those patients who did not attend church (twenty-five days.) In another study (Graham, Kaplan, Coroni-Huntley, James, Becker, Hames, and Heyden, 1978) researchers compared smokers' blood pressure among participants who were two-pack-a-day smokers. Those who attended church had lower blood pressure than those who did not; indeed the church attenders had blood pressure that was no different than those who did not smoke. In a third study (Desmond and Maddox, 1981), this on of heroin addicts, researchers reported that 45 percent of participants in a religiously oriented treatment program were still abstinent at the time of a one year follow-up, compared to only 5 percent who participated in a non-religious program.

It is true that you cannot always prevent pain. Although change is constant, you cannot always predict accurately what those changes will be and pain may be a natural by product of the interaction of your dynamically interacting systems. Yet if you have a healthy spiritual connection your suffering may be minimized, as the previous few studies indicate. For Viktor Frankl, a Jew confined in a Nazi concentration camp: "Man is not diminished by suffering, but by suffering without meaning."

Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, was another healer who found the balance between mind, body and spirit to be essential to health.

According to Nightingale pain relief comes from attending to the body through medicine such as analgesics and surgery, attending to the mind through stress management methods, and attending to the spirit through prayer or inner contemplation. Nightingale suggested that prayer was more than mind calming. Because the universe is orderly, inner contemplation invokes order or balance within, creating healing.

Many methods of relaxation have been studied, including prayer. While prayer does not achieve any greater relaxation than for example, transcendental meditation (TM), other research has indeed shown the healing (not just relaxing) power of prayer. In fact, those who are prayed for, even though they do not pray for themselves, heal faster. Byrd reported in 1988 that hospitalized cardiac patients who were prayed for had, as a group, less congestive heart failure, used less diuretics, had fewer cardiopulmonary arrests, had less pneumonia, used fewer antibiotics and were less frequently intubated, than a similarly matched group of hospitalized cardiac patients who were not prayed for. Furthermore, the patients did not know they were being prayed for and the religions of the patient or the person praying were not relevant. In other words it is not religion that heals, nor is religion the direct connection to spirit, but there is a spirit-to-spirit connection between people.

As you approach this year 1999, the ending of the twentieth century, the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is time to make not just new years resolutions but resolutions for a lifetime. If working hard to make an entrepreneurial business successful and profitable results in workaholism, drug addiction, financial problems, domestic violence, extra-marital affairs and divorce, what's the point? Even if your life has lead you in one of these stressful directions, don't despair. Make meaning of the experience and put the disaster into the context of your life. Then reorient that life to meet your values. If one of those values is a belief in God (as is true for 90% of Americans), yet you are not attending to that spiritual relationship, the balance in your life is compromised and will inevitably lead you to some form of personal or interpersonal dysfunction. On the other hand, if you develop a stronger sense of self, a sense of self as belonging to something larger than just this earthly existence, and you make a commitment to that higher self (i.e. through prayer or inner contemplation), even when you have suffering, you will have a meaningful and prosperous life to share with the ones you love and work with.

Family Business / Risky Business

Thursday, November 05, 1998




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


Todd looked at me bewildered, as if to ask, "Can’t you make her see reason?" The tension in my office had been mounting between the couple as they discussed the likelihood of divorce. They had been at odds for years and everyone including friends, family, employees and business associates knew it. This couple never kept their disagreements secret. In fact, they openly fought in front of employees, just like Mom and Dad in front of the kids.

When the discussion got even more heated, I stepped in and tried to offer help to the husband who seemed so confused about his wife’s request for a divorce. "It’s simply that your wife doesn’t want to be your business partner any longer if she files for divorce." "She doesn’t trust you anymore," I said, "as a husband or a business partner." This couple had built a successful business over many years of hard work. But as the business had grown successful, the marriage had foundered. Now the wife wanted out ... out of the marriage and out of business.

Todd again looked at me as if I were speaking in riddles. "What’s trust got to do with it? I know that she wants a divorce. I am OK with that. But can’t she learn to be civil and still be my business partner? We stand to lose a lot of money if we have to split up the partnership."

Unfortunately this scenario is all too common among couples and families who work together. The focus is so much on the business, so much on business success, so much on financial profit, that the family fails to keep tabs on the loving relationships that made the business partnership possible in the first place. As they ignore the signals that their personal life is sinking into oblivion, these couples and families seem to put even more energy into the business. It’s as if they are trying to save the sinking ship by putting on a new coat of paint.

Entrepreneurial families and couples are starting businesses at a phenomenal rate right now. There are powerful incentives to do so.

Not only are there terrific financial and ego rewards from self employment, but couples find that there is great joy in working with the ones you love. Where else can you find a more trustworthy, reliable, confidential business partner than your spouse or close family member? Todd and his wife started out this way. They had a dream and worked hard to make it a reality. They wanted to provide a quality of life for their children that would enable them to achieve even more than their parents had. They wanted freedom to create something out of nothing. They wanted to go beyond the limits employers always placed on them. They wanted to help each other grow as individuals and in their business/professional lives. At first Todd and his wife Laura were ecstatic with their new lives. They looked forward to each new day. They worked long hard hours but they were doing it together. This "togetherness" was inspiring. Somehow, their combined effort was synergistic and they created even more than they dreamed they could alone. Then something happened. It didn’t happen with a bang, but snuck up on them. Inch by insidious inch, Todd and Laura lost track of themselves as individuals and as a married couple. Instead they were business partners only. The business consumed them. Vendors, customers, employees, business associates, the CPA, their attorneys ... all came before Todd and Laura and their love and friendship.

When Todd and Laura came to my office it appeared that all was lost for the marriage. The business was thriving and would carry on under the capable leadership of either one of them. There would be some financial loss, a few employees would quit, perhaps a contract would be lost, but ultimately, Todd and Laura had created a business that produced a quality service and customers were pleased and faithful. Even a divorce would not really threaten the business. Financial problems were not their worry. Rather, it was the value placed upon each of them as individuals and the value placed on their relationship that was suffering. This kind of problem erupts when entrepreneurs focus all of their attention on the competitive world of business and away from the nurturing world of family life and marriage.

When Laura asked Todd for a divorce, she made a bid for freedom from the tyranny of a one-track life. Better to get a divorce than go on living for nothing more than financial profit. Laura felt dead inside, something money could not heal, but love could. If Todd could no longer love her because the business had become his obsession, then she would seek love elsewhere. Laura was willing to admit that she had made the business her obsession too. It was not all Todd’s fault. She ignored the early warning signs just as he did. She too was thrilled with the status of achievement that came with self employment success. She even felt guilty for not doing something sooner so that she wouldn’t have to cause Todd such pain by asking for a divorce. "If only she had put her foot down sooner," she thought.

The problem that Todd and Laura created for themselves is brought on by two major errors. The first error is building your life around the business. Remember the business is there to serve you, not the other way around. The business is a result of your creative energy, your vision. It reflects your personality, but it is not the master. Todd and Laura’s business was a success because it reflected the synergy of their collective talents and energies. Without them the business would have never been.

The second error is failing to confront problems head on when they first appear. Todd and Laura knew that they were spending too much time on the business. They justified it in those start up years as a necessity to get the business going. They justified it as years went by to stay ahead of the competition. They continued to justify it in later years because work is all they knew. But as the business grew under their careful and committed hands, their relationship was left untended and shriveling into a shadow of what it had been when they started the business.

Is it so hard to turn off your pager or cell phone and take a walk with your sweetheart? Couldn’t you squeeze in a little time to read a novel if you put down the trade journal? How about joining an adult soccer league instead of attending more business after-hours meetings? In other words, attend to your life, your whole life, just as carefully and mindfully as you do your business. If you have it in your power to create a successful thriving financial enterprise, can’t you put similar energy toward your emotional- spiritual-relationship enterprises?

Mom and Grandma: The making of an Entrepreneurial Woman

Friday, May 08, 1998




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


For florists, Mother’s Day is the biggest sale day of the year, bigger even than Valentine’s Day. This is a powerful statement of the value of Mom and her love in our lives. For an entrepreneurial woman, Mother (or Grandmother even) may have provided more than nurturing and support during those difficult growing up years. She may also have served as a role model for female entrepreneurship, even if she operated behind the scenes. This kind of role modeling is often overlooked when entrepreneurs describe their early years and yet it may explain why some girls later become entrepreneurs.

If you are an entrepreneurial woman chances are you have always felt different somehow from your contemporaries. Even as a child you knew that you didn’t quite fit in. Oh yes, you may have had friends and performed well in school, but your thoughts, ideas and behaviors gave you away. You secretly admired the privileges granted the boys. You were a curious, independent-minded, assertive girl. You couldn’t help yourself, even though at times you wished you were more like the others so that you didn’t feel so lonesome and odd.

Nevertheless as an adult you are still different, hopefully with more confidence and pride in those differences. And as you explore entrepreneurship, you finally realize that you have found your niche. For the woman who does not follow the traditional, culturally acceptable path for a female, the going is rough. But the path of entrepreneurship is so rewarding that the hardships are worth it. In fact, entrepreneurship levels out the playing field in some ways for women. If there is a glass ceiling in the corporate world, many women find that the sky’s the limit in self employment. That may be why women-owned business is the fastest growing segment of the self-employed.

Women entrepreneurs do not have the same modeling and clearly defined path to follow that men entrepreneurs have. Women have to look elsewhere for their mentors and guides. Although the research shows that women entrepreneurs are just as motivated as men by achievement needs, desire for independence and the lure of money, they design and run their businesses differently.

With personal relationships as the center of their lives, because it is the way that women define themselves, their businesses reflect this value as well. A woman-owned business is first and foremost an interconnected web of meaningful relationships.

If you are a self employed woman ask yourself where you got your training for entrepreneurship. You may not have entrepreneurship in the family or perhaps only male models. But if you look deeply enough you may find the roots of your entrepreneurial spirit lie closer than you think, perhaps in those meaningful relationships you have had with your mother, your grandmother, an aunt or female close friend of the family. So close to Mother’s Day, perhaps it’s time to honor those women who have helped lay the foundation for your success as a woman entrepreneur.

My Grandmother was one of those important female role models in my life. I loved my Grandma. She made me flannel nighties on her treadle sewing machine. She taught me how to make a quilt by hand. On my birthday she let me help in the kitchen as we created my birthday cake from scratch. She smelled like lavender and wore corsets to trim her waist and support her ample bosom. She was a great hugger. She bought me my first pair of white gloves and taught me the value of being a lady. It was great fun to put on our white gloves, call a taxi and head into town to attend a "show." I was incredibly proud of my Grandma when I watched her entertain at various social and fund raising functions. She had a one woman show where she sang, whistled, played the piano, and told those humorous Garrison Keilor type of stories in a funny Norwegian accent.

As I think about my entrepreneurial roots, I realize that Grandma had a major role in my growing awareness of myself as a girl, a woman, a scholar and as a self-employed professional.

Not only did Grandma delight me when I was a child, but I realize as an adult that she was a true pioneer. Born at the end of the 19th century, she claimed to be the "first white child" born in Nelson British Columbia. Her life was hard in those early years and to save her family the expense of raising her, she married at age 13. The marriage lasted only a few years and produced two children who died in infancy. Broken hearted Grandma set off for San Francisco to seek her fortune. She worked in a coffee shop, attended business school, and paid her way single-handedly by playing the piano at night in the silent movie houses. But always, she kept her virtue in tact. Being a lady was high on Grandma’s list.

Among the women entrepreneurs that I have had the privilege to know, the values that my Grandma taught me are apparent in them as well. Somehow these women know the importance of balancing their feminine spirit with the confidence and tenacity of making their mark in the world. These women value the qualities of loving relationships that so characterize the female spirit. Yet rugged individualism is not left behind. Rather through relationships with family and friends, women entrepreneurs discover strength to face the challenges, hardships and rewards of the entrepreneurial life.

Thank you to all of those wonderful mothers and grandmothers who paved the way for their girls to grow into entrepreneurial women.

The New Year is full of Opportunities

Thursday, January 01, 1998




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


Let January Pass Unnoticed.


With the holiday rush behind you, you may be wondering what lies ahead in the new year. I hope that your holidays were warm and comfortable, but for many of you, they were a stressful time. Remember good stress is as draining as bad stress. January can be a time to recoup and restore your energy and peace of mind. January is also a time to build a foundation for the goals you want to accomplish this year. It’s a long cold spell until our Spring arrives in the Northwest. Use this time to rest, reflect and plan, but don’t be too busy. Time enough for that come April.

In fact, I heard that the Romans originally had a ten month calendar, before our current twelve month model was designed. The months of January and February didn’t even exist. There were no celebrations during this time, no holidays honoring any gods, no new projects of any kind undertaken. The Romans felt that this time of year was so non-descript that they should let it pass quietly and unobtrusively, while they rested and prepared for the rest of the year. Like so many inventions and ideas of the Romans, I think this one is worth keeping. Focus on what you want; not on what you don’t have.

Entrepreneurs are usually not ones to take this advice however. With the distraction of the holidays behind them, they quickly launch into new projects come January first. Entrepreneurs are good at accomplishing goals, but not all that good at establishing healthy goals. Before you launch into your typical January behavior, however, I’d like you to finish reading this column and gain a better understanding of how to make New Year’s Resolutions that actually stick this year.

Several years ago a fifteen year old young woman was sitting in my office for the first time. She was the daughter of a successful entrepreneurial couple and her short life had been consumed by the business growth. Although she had benefited in many ways from her parent’s hard work, she was facing adolescence without a sense of identity or direction. Although her mother had filled me in on her concerns, I asked the young woman what brought her to my office. She seemed quite distressed and wringing her hands, yet she could not tell me what the problem was. Nevertheless, I waited patiently for the young woman to tell her own story.

Eventually, she asked for help. "I don’t know where to begin," she said. "Where should I start?"

Because I like to start on a positive note and begin the process of building reachable goals, I suggested, "Why don’t you just tell me what you want?"

At this request the young woman burst into tears and wept uncontrollably. For several minutes she couldn’t speak at all. Again I waited patiently for her to tell me her story. Finally, she spoke through her tears and the lump in her throat.

"No one has ever asked me what I wanted before."

For years this young woman had watched her parents sacrifice their lives for the business, and ultimately sacrifice hers too. Believe it or not this problem is not restricted to this teenager alone. Many people walk around with feelings of fear and unworthiness. They are afraid to ask for what they want and therefore continue lives of failure, loneliness and desperation.

Entrepreneurs fall victim to this mentality too. You may think that entrepreneurs represent the epitome of going for what they want. However, often what drives an entrepreneur to success is a deep seated fear of inadequacy, or a desire to impress others. With many entrepreneurs, as with this teenager, the focus is on what they don’t have, not on what they do have. I have had many a self-made millionaire tell me they wished they could do their life over and have different priorities. Those different priorities would include true understanding of the self and planning a life to maximize deeply held values and beliefs.

Let the New Year bring self acceptance.

Since January first brings us the opportunity to make New Year’s Resolutions, I think it is about time to start a new tradition, that of appreciating ourselves for who we are. As one bumper sticker proclaims, "God doesn’t make junk." Let your New Year’s Resolution this year be "I will accept myself totally and unconditionally and be the best I can be this year."

If you can appreciate who you are, that each and every day you are making a valuable contribution to your community by just doing your everyday thing (not overachieving), then you will have a much more prosperous new year. You will notice your talents more and strengthen them. You will notice your flaws more too, but you can build a plan to correct them. Those opportunities that always come to others, will finally come to you. The opportunities have always been there, but your tendency to focus on losses and inadequacies prevents you from seeing the obvious and taking advantage of it to make your life work even better. If you have been successful accomplishing other people’s goals, think how much you can really accomplish if you lead your own life.

Change your paradigm.

OK so it is hard to shake off years of self imposed negativity or a belief that if you are not perfect or the best, you have failed. And you have failed at all previous New Year’s Resolutions, so why should this time be any different? This time, however, you have a new paradigm to work with. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong in your life, you are going to pay attention to what is right. These tips will help you get started.

100% of the people in the world have problems, serious problems at some time in their lives and usually regularly. You are not alone in this.

  1. You are not broken just because you are hurt (or angry, or ignorant, or misinformed, or make a mistake). Remember that being hurt is a symptom of something that needs changing.
  2. Bad things do happen to good people. Being good is not the goal. Maturing is.
  3. You cannot change the past, but you can learn from it. If you continue to brood over the past, maybe it’s because you haven’t learned from it what you need. Search for the lesson.
  4. Not everything in life can be changed, nor should it be. Accept the things you cannot change.
  5. Trust that you have the resources within yourself to make the changes you need and want to make. You may not know what those resources are, but trust that they will come to you one way or another.

Self acceptance turns crisis into opportunity.

OK, so now that your paradigm has shifted, do you notice anything different? Are the colors a little brighter? Is there a bounce in your walk? Are you making more money? Do you feel love all around? No? Well that’s because, you still have work to do. Just because you think differently doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to do. Now the hard work of change is necessary. But at least you have the right attitude to get you to your goals.

If you recognize that life is a complex and problem-filled arena designed to assist you on your quest toward wisdom and maturity (just as it is for everyone else), then when you have a problem you’ll face it squarely with full self acceptance. You’ll dig in, assess, diagnose and search out the meaning. You will use all the strengths at your disposal to create workable solutions. At the end you’ll be a little smarter, a little wiser, a little stronger, a little saner.

Long ago I learned that the Kanji for "crisis" is made of two figures. The first is "danger" and the second is "opportunity." With self acceptance securely under your belt, you will be able to wrest the opportunity out of any danger. Although not all problems can be solved necessarily, all problems can produce learning in preparation for the next step in life. Use your New Year’s Resolution of self acceptance to help you live the life you were meant to have and to take you where "no one has gone before" to paraphrase Start Trek. In other words, instead of just accomplishing things, instead of impressing others, instead of striving to be perfect, make your New Year’s Resolution to accomplish those things that really have value to you. Happy New Year!

The Family/Business Vacation

Tuesday, April 01, 1997




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


A couple of years ago at a Family Firm Institute annual meeting, a woman approached me and asked about how I manage to attend these meetings and still have time for my family. She noticed that my children and husband were staying with me at the hotel and would frequently meet with me during breaks throughout the conference. She also wondered if there were others at the conference who may benefit by arrangements for their children and families. Since I had had several people question me about this, I assured her that there were many conference attendees who would be interested in a conference that allowed for family participation of some kind. Being a woman may make it easier for me to consider how to balance family and professional needs. Not that men don&rsquot value their families, but there is no precedent for a man to bring the baby to the board room. On the other hand, it is becoming more common for women executives to have a play pen in their offices and to take breaks from work for baby. And more and more large corporations have child-care on site, so working parents can visit their children for lunch.

I remember taking my younger daughter Phoebe to a conference in Raleigh North Carolina when she was just three months old. She slept on the long plane ride to Chicago, then explored with wide eyed interest the Chicago airport as I whisked her and I to the next plane to Raleigh. At the conference itself, I mixed batches of formula in my hotel room (I brought along a mini-hot pot to boil water) and asked hotel staff to chill bottles in the staff refrigerator. Even though my environmental consciousness required that I use cloth diapers, for the duration I acquiesced and used disposables.

As I wheeled Phoebe (in her umbrella stroller, which easily totes on the airplane) to various conference meetings, I got quite a few inquisitive looks ... and smiles. Everyone wanted to talk to the baby. And I got several offers to baby-sit, so that I could attend a meeting without interruptions.

My husband and I are committed to raising children who have a sense of belonging to a family with parents who are professionals. The children see our work as part of who we are ... and they are part of it too. I seldom attend a conference anymore without taking one or both children and my husband along. This last trip to L.A. was no exception. This time, Mom stayed at the hotel in downtown L.A. for three days, while Dad and the girls visited Grandma and Grandpa in Orange county. Following the conference, the family picked me up to visit my uncle and cousin who live near Burbank. So close to Hollywood, we made a side trip to the famed Universal Studios. We all rode the Jurassic Park ride and the girls have T-shirts stating "I survived Jurassic Park." Before leaving town, we made one last trip south to say good-bye to the grandparents and slip in a trip to Disneyland. Needless to say we were tired when we got home eight days later, but we were nourished, professionally and personally.

Within just a few short years, since I first took baby Phoebe with me to Raleigh, hotels and resorts have started catering to business travelers who wish to bring their children with them. While Mom and Dad are at their business meetings, or downloading their e-mail from the office back home, the children are able to participate in events sponsored and supervised by hotel staff. This certainly makes it easier than in the days when there was no one to help with the children. Sometimes, I would just have to skip a meeting because baby came first.

However, there is another potential problem. Workaholics may never learn how to leave work, if even the entertainment industry (i.e. hotels) encourages you to work instead of play. Combining work and play as I have described above is one alternative, but another is to plan vacations without work in mind at all. Oh, I know, pure vacations aren&rsquot write offs, but they may do more good than reduced taxes. In our family, we plan at least one two week vacation a year that has nothing to do with work. And we usually have two to three long weekends that are purely family fun too.

These considerations are especially relevant to family firms, of course. As a family who also happens to be in business together, you have the sophisticated task of integrating the needs of family and the needs of business. If your spouse and your children feel a part of your work, they are in a better position to help with business growth, even if only as interested stakeholders. And if you are willing to take time from your busy schedule to play with your children and family, even at a business conference or trade show, you are sending a very important message. That is, no matter how important the business, no matter how you wish the business to succeed, what&rsquos the point if you cannot share your successes with the ones you love?

Here's the secret to finding a reliable auto mechanic

Thursday, February 06, 1997




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


Have you ever experienced that chilling feeling that creeps up your spine when your car starts acting up? It's bad enough to be inconvenienced by having your car in "the shop," but what's even more frightening is having to face the mechanic, a person you don't trust, yet need.

Mechanics lie to you. They make unnecessary repairs and over-charge you. It's not just a feeling. There have been "undercover" stories on television where the mechanics are caught "red-handed." Mechanics can't be trusted. That's a fact! At least, this is what I believed until a couple of years ago when I met our current "family auto mechanic." This guy is like a breath of fresh air. He and his wife run the shop with a couple of employees. He's honest, hardworking, RELIABLE. His prices are fair. The work gets done in a timely manner. And to cap it off, my car is always better after he's fixed it. Is it any wonder that his business has grown steadily over the years, so that he had to move from his quaint little storefront to larger more professional space? I hope the growth doesn't change his values. With this issue of the Vancouver Business Journal , I began to wonder what is it that makes our "family auto mechanic" so exceptional. There are the basics. He's timely. He's knowledgeable. He's personable but not terribly out-going.He remembers my name. He charges what the work is worth, not what the traffic will bear. I always get answers; no double-talk. He rarely tells me he has no time for me. If he can't fix it, he tells me where I can get the car fixed.

He does little extras; he's willing to pull leaves out of rain drains so that the interior of my car stays dry.A major appliance company conducted a study a few years ago to learn how to improve the quality of the repairs on customer's appliances. The technicians were given tests to determine their personality style; then divided into one of two types, introvert and extravert. Introverts are people who quietly within themselves figure out the problem. Whereas, extraverts are more noisy about their problem solving, needing to talk aloud and get feedback from others. The appliance company then asked their customers two questions: (1) How satisfied are you with the repair?; and (2) How satisfied are you with the technician? While the customers found the extraverted technicians more personable, there were fewer complaints about the repairs done by the introverts. In other words, the guy who quietly goes about his business of getting the job done, but doesn't interact much with the customer does a better job. Our "family auto mechanic" fits this picture. But there's more. There's something deeper that makes my mechanic special. He really seems to love his work. He works hard, often late into the night. And his wife is working right beside him. It must be that he enjoys solving the mystery behind my car problems. He probably wants to earn money too, but money is a byproduct of doing what you love.

Obviously our "family auto mechanic" is being paid well for doing what he loves. I know that I am not alone in this desire to have a mechanic I can trust and who does quality work. Recently on National Public Radio I was listening to "Car Talk," a lively program dedicated to answering tough car repair problems called in by listeners. On this particular night I was amused to have an astronaut call in from his space shuttle orbiting the Earth. Although the reception was compromised by a little static, I learned about the problems astronauts have with their vehicles.But what was even more fascinating about the program is that the hosts were offering to set up a free locator service for mechanics. They asked listeners to send in the names of mechanics that they felt were RELIABLE and trustworthy. If you want to find a mechanic you can trust, you need to get to know the person. Just as with your physician or hair dresser, the relationship with your mechanic should be more than passing. In our frenzied world, many of us have lost tract of the community spirit, but that community spirit is what helps build trust. If I know my mechanic and his family and he knows me and mine, we can build a relationship of trust over the years. He knows just how I like things done. I know that I can trust him to have my best interests at heart. Most importantly, I want to work with someone who cares about me, not just my car; and I want to work with someone I care about too.

The developing of a resilient organizational leader

Monday, October 14, 1996




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


What makes a leader? Is leadership a genetic trait or a learned ability? Are men better leaders than women? Is leadership ability universal or situational? Do leadership skills fade if not used? These are questions that research has yet to answer. But leadership development is one of the major concerns of American executives. Business owners are frequently faced with the problem of developing leadership skills among executives and managers. These same executives and managers may be highly skilled in their particular specialty, but lack what it takes to lead his or her people to excellence in their industry. The qualities of a leader are many. And to some extent the type of leadership style that works in one setting may not work in another. What is common to all successful leaders however, is the ability to communicate with his or her subordinates, colleagues and superiors. The confident leader communicates this confidence and encourages the best from others. Over the years I have often been surprised at how many successful and wealthy business owners have such poor communication and leadership skills. Apparently having good interpersonal skills is not a requirement for business success, but it certainly makes things go more smoothly. One wonders how much more could be accomplished by these wealthy and successful folks if they had improved interpersonal skills. When you are the boss you can compensate for poor people skills by firing troubling people. Most entrepreneurs are extremely hard workers, so another way to compensate is to put in more hours to cover for your lack of leadership ability. In family firms, if no family member emerges as a successor to the founder, the business can be sold.

These strategies seem rather primitive when good communication and interpersonal skills can be learned. It may be that some people are just born to lead, but with training in communication skills, a natural leader may be discovered who may otherwise have been overlooked. The kind of skills that will enhance any leader's position and that could create a leader from someone with raw talent, come under what I call the "resilience factor." Within this factor are the qualities of flexibility, the win-win philosophy, quality over quantity, toughness, and foresight. No matter what surprises lay in store for this leader, he or she is flexible enough to do what works in the moment. He or she can learn from even the lowest employee in the hierarchy. A father can take direction from his son or daughter. Competition is a waste of time for this leader. A husband and wife who work together learn to appreciate the unique talents that each brings to the business. This leader's philosophy is that everyone wins. Doing things fast is replaced by doing things thoroughly, efficiently and with quality. The leader who has mastered good interpersonal skills has a devoted work force, family and clientele. Therefore, taking the time to do it right and to learn from others pays off. Leaders who win are tough. They don't give up. Their employees and family members can count on them to come through. They aren't afraid to speak, nor to speak an unpopular position. And when they speak, they have thoroughly researched their opinion.

Winging it was OK in those start up years, but if you want people to follow you, be thorough. Among family business owners, cultivating leadership is even more difficult. The development of interpersonal skills is often thwarted by the system of primogeniture. That is, the leader of a family business may take leadership solely because he is the eldest son of the founder. He may have little leadership ability, and poor interpersonal skills, but as the son (or eldest son) no one looks further for true leadership. Leaders of family firms who want the best for their families and their business confront the problem of cultivating leadership openly and honestly. They insist on training the next generation in the development of problem solving skills, communication skills, confrontation skills as well as the skills of the specific product manufactured. Passing the business on to the next generation requires foresight, another quality of successful leadership. Being wrapped up in ego needs, leaves a business owner with no one to trust the business to when he or she retires or dies. The truly resilient leader is one who has planned ahead and created a resilient business. Resilient leaders recognize the abilities and talents in others as well as themselves. These leaders realize that their greatest contribution to the business is their ability to lead, to cultivate excellence in others, to create a quality business with longevity. Without developing the interpersonal skills that create trust and confidence in the leader, this is just not possible.

How do you grow up if you don't leave home

Monday, August 05, 1996




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


Forty year old Cathy has worked in her family's restaurant business for 25 years. Her older brother Charles has done the same. Both have matured with the family business and seen it grow from one restaurant to five. Cathy's parents, the founders are nearing retirement and want the business to carry on under the care of their children. Cathy and Charles are ready and well trained (both on-the-job and college degrees) for succession. They work well as a team so there is no competition for leadership. Where's the problem? The problem is the youngest son, Brian. At 35, Brian has never worked in the family firm, preferring to try his hand in other ventures. Unfortunately everything Brian has tried has failed. Always there to help, Cathy's parents have "bailed" Brian out of one jam after another. Now as they face retirement, the parents want Cathy and Charles to hire Brian and to share ownership and management of the family business with him! Needless to say Cathy and Charles are beside themselves with frustration and fear. They don't want to offend their parents. After all, without their parents neither Cathy nor Charles would be in the fortunate position of owning a thriving business. However, Brian's inexperience, lack of maturity and questionable work ethic may cause considerable problems in the business. Neither Cathy nor Charles relish the idea of taking care of their brother indefinitely as their parents have done. This type of problem is all to common in family-owned firms. Being a parent is the single most important job in anyone's life. Most of us cherish this responsibility and we are very reluctant to give it up when the children leave home. In family firms where children may never leave home, the parenting role may continue indefinitely. In Brian's case, this appears to be true. A parent's job is to nurture and protect children so that they can grow up healthy and capable of independent adult life. But parent's don't teach independence directly. Independence is a state of mind that children must conquer for themselves. All cultures have growing-up rituals which affirm that the child has reached a stage of maturity wherein they must accept adult responsibility for their actions. The Bar Mitzvah is a religious ritual acknowledging that the young Jewish boy is now responsible for his own spiritual development.

Most American sixteen-year-olds get their driver's license, which is a type of ritual acknowledging that the teenager is fully responsible for their driving behavior. But just because a child has gone through the ritual doesn't mean they have made the cognitive leap to mature thinking. In a way, the Bar Mitzvah or the driver's license is really a license to begin learning to be an adult. To be responsible for all the mistakes one makes on the way to adulthood is the real test of maturity. Parents in family firms sometimes interfere with the growing-up process by being just a little to ready to rescue their progeny. Sometimes Mom and Dad fight over the child because one doesn't want the child hurt and the other wants the child to face their mistakes. Alternatively the child may be making a bid for independence but the parents thwart it. On the one hand parents complain that their grown child is not very strong or capable of leadership. Then on the other hand, they complain when the child speaks up for himself. One grown son complained that his father would "micro-manage me." The son carried the title of manager of one department in the family firm, but his father really never let him run the show. And to add insult to injury the father would stop by his son's house almost daily to advise him how to take care of the son's family and home. The father's complaint was that the son "never listens to me." In a fit of frustration the son quit the company, moved out of state and went to work for a competitor. But within a year he left the job and returned to his father's company. His bid for independence had been crushed by father's lack of support. Yet in other situations siblings give each other a hard time. If one child makes a bid for independence by leaving the family business, a sibling who is staying behind may become resentful if the parents are just as helpful to the departing child as to the one left behind. Also family members can feel as if the child who is leaving is breaking family ties and therefore not very loving. In order to acquire that state of mind that makes us an independent adult, a child has to prove him- or herself in the world.

This proof often comes by leaving the parental home and conquering one's fears about being self supporting. Many CEOs of family firms had no one helping them getting the business off of the ground, so they had ample opportunity to prove their adulthood. But what of their children, who have never had to look for a job? Some children can acquire maturity while working for their parents, perhaps by going off to college. But for most children they will have a very difficult time developing the strength of character required to run a business if they have not had preparation through the "School of Hard Knocks." If this sounds cruel, think for a moment about where your greatest lessons in life came from. Chances are you grew the most and gained the greatest confidence from conquering the impossible tasks that no one else could do for you. There are a variety of strategies for ensuring that the second and third generations in family firms really grow up. The strategy that fits for your business depends upon the business, the parent's skills and personality and the skills and personalities of the children. In any case the child needs an environment where they must prove themselves capable of leadership in the family business. For some this means leaving the business for awhile and working elsewhere. For others, it means getting a graduate education before returning to the family business. Another child may benefit by working their way up from the "mailroom" with no preferential treatment from the parents. Finally, some children will be better family members and more capable adults if they never return to the family business. There are two goals in family firms. One is to develop a thriving and competitive business. The second is to develop healthy independent mature adults who can contribute to society. It would be very efficient to accomplish both goals within the framework of a family business, but this isn't always possible. And these two goals are not mutually dependent. Keep in mind that the business can be successful without the child and the child can be successful without the business. That is, set your sights on accomplishing both goals independent of each other, and you may be surprised how they come together in the long run.