The Tale of Two Families

Posted by Tom Scarda, Certified Franchise Executive on May 16, 2022 8:00:00 AM

In franchise consultant, life decisions

Growing up, I had my feet in two different worlds; two different experiences, the life of an employee and a business owner. 


My father was a New York City Police Officer. My grandfather and three uncles on my mom's side of the family owned a small home heating oil business. 


On my dad's days off, he would often drive an oil truck for my uncles for extra money. He was always doing odd jobs to make a few extra bucks to feed me and my two younger brothers, Jack and Joe. 


My uncles were always late to our traditional Italian Sunday dinners and family events, especially in the winter. That's because they were busy running their business. They worked hard. 


But the uncles had the best of everything and an extraordinary lifestyle. They drove great cars and lived in the fanciest part of Brooklyn, NY. My brothers and I would get my cousin's hand-me-downs. Their old bikes, clothes, and furniture. My brother Joe once said to everyone at a family gathering, "If you want to visit your old furniture, just come to our house."


My father had one brother, Carl, who lived near Albany, NY – 3 ½ hours from our home in the city. There were many times when we'd visit for a long weekend. Because we had an old, beat-up family car, we would borrow one of my uncle's Cadillacs to go on the long drive. 


I asked my dad, "Why don't you just buy a new car?" It was embarrassing that our 1963 Pontiac Lemans couldn't make it to Albany. 


My dad said, "look, son, you have either money like your uncles or time, like me. Your cousins have nice new things when you think about it, but they rarely see their dad. You and I and your brothers get to hang out a lot." Yup, that made sense to my 10-year-old mind. However, in later years, I realized that my uncles ran a great business and made lots of money despite their lack of business know-how. 


After studying business for so long and being involved with great business leaders in the franchise world, I learned that you CAN have both money and time. It all comes down to great systems. That is what franchising is built on. A tight business model with methods for every aspect of the operation will give the owner freedom and flexibility… and money. That is what we are all looking for. My uncles bootstrapped their business, and although it made great money, it ate them alive, I discovered recently.


Whether you have a job or a business, it is merely a mechanism to get what you need in your life. It's the basics, as Abram Maslow said, food, water, shelter. We want to provide for ourselves and our families. 


We are taught to go to school, get a good education and get a good job to pay the bills. Our education system is steeped in the tradition of getting people to work within the constructs of the industrial revolution. We go to school at 9 am and get released at 3 pm. We move when we hear the bell. We are required to follow instructions and color within the lines. Fall in place. Don't make trouble. Then our jobs, in many ways, mimic our school life. Actually, it is a regular thing to see corporate executives going to work with a backpack on. They wait for the bus to take them downtown, except the bus is silver with ads on its side instead of yellow. 


Business owners are perhaps rebellious. They decided to not follow the status quo. They don't color inside the lines. They make their own way. However, in the end, it's just another way, a different way, to pay the bills. However, in business, many times, there is money left over. If you work really hard, you have more of the extraordinary things in life. Not just material items but things that matter most, freedom and time with family. As you may have heard before, one thing you never hear from someone in their final days is, 'I wish I spent more time in the office.'


Some people need the perceived safety of someone giving them some money for their time. And that is fine. The world needs workers. But for others, others require the latitude to have more than a paycheck. They want the satisfaction of building something, helping people, and creating jobs in the community. And that is being successful in business.


Being a business owner is not a final destination. Because a well-run business will give the owner benefits of time and money. A company with systems provides the owner with the means to do other things. Whether it is being a consumer and paying cash for boats and cars and planes, taking long vacations, or maybe buying more businesses. Perhaps it's paying for a hospital or a church to be built or giving it all to charity.


So, a job has its results, too, a paycheck and maybe health benefits. A job enables you to make a living. However, a business helps the owner to live life. It just comes down to a choice. 

And it is not the choice between business 'A' or franchise 'B.' The decision is between unhappiness and uncertainty. 


Unhappiness is trading your time and your life away for money. Uncertainty is trading perceived safety in a job for freedom and self-satisfaction. There is no right or wrong. It's just a choice. 


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