I have been wondering what my life would have been like had I not joined the Family Business Council (now, CFBC) 18 years ago. I had been drafted into a 50-year-old business at the age of 44, with a young family and no prior business experience (I had been practicing poverty law and computerizing law offices.) My business day was then filled with learning to manage two distribution businesses and one manufacturing business. I was dealing with my family in a business situation, learning my own style of management, managing fifty people, dealing with supply chains, customers, vendors and banks. I needed help.
Had I not joined the Family Business Council I would have missed entering the atmosphere where new strangers trusted me with their business and personal information and issues in such a way as to encourage me to do the same. Had I gone to business school instead, I would have learned from books of general experience, rather than from people who were becoming friends, who reported their shared experiences and offered insights that books would never reveal.
At one point, my father asked why I was spending "so much money" on my FBC membership. When I explained the value of the peer groups, my ersatz board of directors, and the value of the presentations at the large group functions, he was satisfied with that answer. Other organizations were much more expensive and, most likely, I would have been forced to quit. Other organizations also saw turnover in their peer groups to the point where the lack of continuity would likely have moved me to quit. I think FBC was a strong fit.
At one point, most of the customers of one of our divisions were moving production to the Pacific Rim. It was devastating our business. Had I not been in the FBC, I would have drifted alone with only "stay the course" advice from our long-term trusted advisors. Sigma forum members met at my office ad hoc, asked questions, asked for reports, and then directed me to specific help to save the company. Without FBC, my company might have failed at that time and I would be back practicing law.
I have had a number of employee issues ranging from behavior problems to supply availability to customer service. Knowing how to listen, ask clarifying questions, share my experiences, set expectations, and respect the opinion of others has empowered me within my business. My employees enjoy our meetings. That carries over to their contact with our customers. Without FBC, my people (and I) would never have elevated our emotional intelligence. PDEI has also passed from me through my employees to their families as well. Without FBC, our interpersonal skill set would have been distracted, disorganized and dysfunctional.
I am a lucky man. And CFBC is one of the treasures in my lucky life.