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What Owning A Family Business Really Means

August 23, 2017

When I was a kid I would walk up and down South Broadway and wonder about all the amazing small businesses that make up the wonderful Denver-Metro landscape. I desired to know the stories behind these small businesses. Many of these businesses are 100% family owned, passed down for generations. I would let my mind wander for hours about how these businesses came to be a staple within one of the best cities in the world. I would also imagine how these businesses became part of so many family legacies.

Fast forward a couple decades and, next thing you know, I can honestly say I’m living the dream. As Founder of GoEdison, my goal was never to build a family business. Probably like so many other businesses, it happened to work out that way.

Our family business is made up of two families from two separate households. We don’t define family by blood relation here. We define it by love.

As many know, my Co-Founder, Jimbo Davis, is not just my business partner, he’s my best friend, and really more like a brother to me. Whoever said “don’t do business with friends” had terrible friends. We’re grateful to have a friendship that underlies our business. Furthermore, our entire GoEdison team has direct relation to one of the two household GoEdison families.

This past month has been a very strong reminder to me about the importance of family, and – even deeper – the importance of love. My wife and I welcomed our first child into the world on July 5th. Our son, Greyson Thomas Harper, blessed us with his presence eight weeks early. Since Greyson came so early, he’s had to live in the NICU at St. Joe’s hospital full-time since he was born. Even though Greyson has been a blessing, leaving him every night – not having the ability to take him home – has been the toughest thing my wife and I have ever had to do.

So, how has this tie back into business? For the last 25 days straight, Monday through Monday (no days off), we’ve lived in our son’s hospital room. This isn’t the reality for most parents in our situation; they have other time obligations and restrictions that don’t allow them to be that available – mainly having to go into an office every day for their job. GoEdison, and more importantly, my GoEdison family (which literally is my family), has allowed me to spend time with my son; it has given me freedom.

Listed below are three things my family couldn’t have lived without for the last 25 days. Also, these are three things I’m currently most grateful for, which – ironically enough – all tie back to our business.

Having A Strong Team in Place

I think it’s only right I start by saying I couldn’t be more thankful for the team I have at my back. Fortunately for us, team really means family.

Having a strong team is critical for any business. It’s almost 10x more critical for smaller businesses to have a dynamic team in place. Our team is built off trust. It’s that simple. Having trust amongst each other is something you can’t put a price on. I trust our team with my life, and during challenging times, they not only have kicked ass for our business, they have been there for my family.

The second thing to mention when it comes to having a dynamic team in place is the fact that we’re 100% accountable to each other. We’re not afraid of honesty, and with that said, we’re not afraid to be honest with each other. If there’s a problem, we discuss it, we own it, and we address it. Complacency is our biggest fear, and collectively we work our asses off to be the furthest thing from complacent. How do we do that? By keeping each other honest and being accountable.

It’s safe to say our family-ran business DOESN’T have success without our team in place. The specific people that make up our team are without question our biggest asset as a business and the clients we serve.

Freedom and Flexibility – The Ability to Work Remotely

We’re thankful to have a business where we can service our clients from anywhere in the world as long as we have a laptop. Although, we believe in the power of face-to-face relationships. The freedom brought by the ability to work remotely over the past month during these challenging times has been critical.

When you own a business you work long hours. There is no way around it. When you scale a business, you must work effective hours; you create freedom along with value. During this time, I’ve experienced that firsthand, thus gaining valuable skills through the challenges.

I can’t imagine how it would feel not having this business at my back to provide the freedom I’ve had while being there for my family. GoEdison lives the hustle; that’s truly all we know. Owning a family business – especially for the last three weeks – has provided some much-needed flexibility and freedom for my family and I. None of this would’ve been possible, for me, without owning my own business.

Our Wonderful Clients

Last, and certainly not least, I want to give a special thanks to our clients. Our clients are the lifeline of our business; for us, this is obvious. I typically don’t publicly talk about our clients – let alone thank them. Although, they all know how important they are to us; but, right now, it’s 100% appropriate and relevant.

During this time, I’ve personally been humbled by the multiple clients who’ve reached out and shared their concern, positive sentiment and well wishes to my family and I. Our clients’ thoughtfulness validates what we already know, which is that we strive to work with the best companies and business owners around; we can confidently say this is true. We always tell our clients during the prospecting sales process, “we want to work with who we like.” Thankfully, we can say we work with clients we truly respect and genuinely like. Again, quality relationships are the lifeline to small business. For GoEdison, this is definitely the case.

Expressing Gratitude

So, what does owning a family business really mean? Well, that’s up to the individual business owner to decide. What does owning a small family business mean to me and GoEdison? A LOT. If it wasn’t for our business, the team we have in place, and our wonderful clients, my life these last 45 days would’ve been much more challenging. Having a small business allowed my family the privilege of spending all this quality time with my son, which has been critical to his health and development in these early phases of his life.

I’m in a phase where I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. These last two months have brought new meaning to the word gratitude, and I realize more than ever that I have wonderful people in my life. Whether it’s business partners or clients, I’m truly blessed.

Thanks to our small family business, my son Greyson Thomas Harper has been able to thrive and be with his family. He’s been able to benefit from his father being by his side in these critical times, and – for that fact alone – I’ll always be grateful for our small business.

Thank you, GoEdison for being my family business.

James Harper – Founder, GoEdison

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