Team or Family?

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Whenever I ask a leader how many people are in their group, they will respond with a number and the word team. “I have 17 people on my team.”

Sometimes they will say, “I am responsible for a team of 21.” I always like when a leader includes the word responsible in any statement because it indicates their thinking — and how they view their role as leader. A responsible leader.

I’ve been a business owner since the late 1960s. I’ve always considered myself a businessman rather than an entrepreneur. Probably because my dad was a businessman and my mom was a businesswoman, and most of our family friends were businesspeople. They all owned or operated “family businesses.”

As a result of those exposures, I’ve always considered my business a family business, and have always had members of my family involved in the business. I never felt that I had a team of people. I had (and still have) a family.

I don’t know of many leaders or business owners who define it this way. But I have found that by using “family thinking” rather than team thinking it’s a much more personal business, and I tend to take more family actions than corporate actions.

Here are 4.5 examples of “family thinking” in my business:

1. Benefits are based on what I would provide for my family. Health and dental insurance is provided. AAA Roadside Assistance is provided. Life insurance is provided. These are the same benefits I would give my children, so I give them to the rest of the family.

2. Everyone eats. When you go to the refrigerator in your home, you don’t leave a dollar for a soda. You just take it. It’s the same in my business. Food is free. And not just for our family – also for the family of people that service us. The copier repair person, the FedEx delivery person, and the plant lady. They all know there’s food at Buy Gitomer that they’re more than welcome to partake of.

3. Family celebrations. Birthdays and special occasions create opportunities for the family to gather (many are in separate offices all day) and have pizza or sandwiches to celebrate. It’s a relaxed time where people get to know each other as human beings, not just as co-workers.

4. Living benefits. Every employee is entitled to a free health club membership at the local YMCA. This serves two purposes. First is the opportunity for everyone in the company to get healthy and stay healthy. And second it’s part of my ongoing commitment to help the city of Charlotte.

4,5 The atmosphere is relaxed. We’re not a PC-company. People are responsible for their own productivity. People are responsible for their own hours. And people are responsible for their own tasks – without language or protocol getting in the way.

KEY POINT OF UNDERSTANDING: Whether you call your people a team or a family, as a leader you have a responsibility to create the internal atmosphere in your office or at your place of business. And I maintain that in a relaxed atmosphere, where people feel at home and can grab something to eat when they’re hungry, great morale and high productivity follow suit.

KEY ACTION TO TAKE: Assess the current condition of the people on your team. How do you think they feel about coming to work every day? And how do they interact with others? Ask yourself if there’s something you could do that would improve their feelings about the business and increase their productive time while they’re in your office or theirs. WARNING: You may have to spend a few more dollars to make this happen, but I promise you those dollars are well invested.

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