The essence of family business
Growing up Italian had its benefits but also its disadvantages. I loved that we celebrated all occasions as a family but disliked being the youngest, and a girl. I had to do the dishes. In our house there was always a lot of chaos and yelling, but there was also a lot of commitment and love.
Sadly, my father passed away when I was eight and I did not know my eldest brother very well because he was working in North Italy for many years to provide for us.
We migrated in Australia in 1977 and we all came together even though my brother was established in Turin. From the moment we arrived my brother worked really hard in two jobs until he bought the first restaurant with his partner in 1985.
I was the only one in my family who went to school in Australia and I pursued a career in IT. I worked for one of the top banks and was doing very well in amazing roles; IT operations, service management and support. At the time 70% of bank employees were women but only 3% had roles in senior management. I felt like a number in the strong hierarchical structure and felt unappreciated and insignificant no matter what I did. I did not feel like I was having an impact.
The benefits of family business
So in 1996, I joined the family business my brother co-founded. I was to set up the distribution centre for 12 Italian restaurants. Saying that I got a culture shock is an understatement. Where previously I specialised in each role, working in the family business meant I had to learn fast- if I did not know how to do something, I just had to do it anyway.
The pressure was immense and it was a sink or swim environment but I loved it. I felt a sense of purpose and knew that everything I did mattered, even if sometimes I made a mistake and I had to be accountable.
When there was work to be done, we worked long hours. When there was success, we celebrated together. As we grew the family business my responsibilities developed and I created a diverse team that worked together and built a sense of community where everyone felt part of the family.
That family culture hasn’t changed.
Most of the franchisees we recruited at La Porchetta, are small, family-run enterprises and some of those families have been with the brand for more than 20 years, with the second generation now involved as well. They serve their customers and build relationships with them so much so, that their children and grandchildren have now become customers.
Franchisees and their staff are treated like extended family members and all of them are part of their local community.
I am now working with my children to create a family business for them and empower them to grow and leave a legacy for their children.
We all need to feel we are part of a community, whether it’s our family, school, work, worshipping, sports club or any other group. Having a sense of community promotes the mental health of everyone involved, from children to the elderly.
Family business is part of local community
Long-lasting, positive and meaningful emotional connections are part of the fabric of a happy society. Sometimes we take our communities for granted and it’s great to just step back, take a breath and look around us at the wonderful people we share our lives with. At this time in particular, I am sure that we are all reflecting on this.
I love family business because no matter how large or small the business, that sense of community and celebration is always there.
I also love the fact that through the family business I did get to know my brother and spend many years learning from him – and teaching him a little at the end. He listened and it didn’t matter anymore that I was his little sister because we not only loved each other as siblings, but we respected each other as family members working in business together.
The sense of community and family is particularly alive in franchising. The franchisor and franchisee relationship is sometimes compared to a marriage, where the relationship will break down if open communication is lacking. Similarly, successful franchise systems have a strong sense of community with an open and transparent relationship. I have seen firsthand many franchisees succeed by harnessing their family talents and working together.
So, I invite you to celebrate with me National Family Business Day 2020 on the 18th of September and recognise all the local hardworking family businesses that are the backbone of the Australian economy – many of them in franchising. If you would like to find out how to get involved in this day click this link; https://www.familybusiness.org.au/about-us/fba-national-family-day