A full two-thirds of all private companies in the US are family owned. The vast majority are SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). For an approximate translation, SMEs range from mom-and-pop operations to family owned companies with about 30 to 50 employees. Most of these companies are under three years old. At any given point in time, there are hundreds of thousand SMEs in the economy, with the vast majority still finding their feet. A few are beginning to thrive and grow, although only 12% of startups are still viable after three years.
For a majority of the SMEs, the first three years are about finding your feet. It’s about understanding how the business works. Success comes from understanding your customers and their needs, learning financial prudence and above all else learning to work together. Businesses where the family members don’t work well with each other and with their employees are sure to be a counted in the 88% of businesses that fail.
In these small and tightly knit companies, the absence of even one person on medical or other grounds can create chaos at work. SMEs are highly sensitive to absenteeism. The ones that fall into the 12% realize that over the medium to long term, it pays to keep your employees healthy. Three years is medium term.
How can a small family business, already stretched for resources, worry about employee wellbeing beyond the cost of medical insurance? It can start out small, by offering unlimited seasonal fruits to encourage healthy snacking. By offering gym memberships to employees and charging it as a deductible expense. Showing that you care for the employee’s wellbeing means your chances of making it past three years have suddenly brightened.
The other thing family run companies need to watch is the culture of the company. With the world the way it is today, you can no longer judge the gift from its wrapping. Don’t discriminate based on how the employee looks, but focus instead on their skills and their ability to be a team player. As a stakeholder in the business, you want employees who are willing to learn and take responsibility, and individuals with clean hearts and habits.
The issue of testing for substance abuse at the workplace is a hotly debated topic. It is often a conflict between the companies wanting to ensure a clean workplace and the employee’s right to privacy. In some respects, companies that are just starting out have it easier. There are only a handful of people to deal with and the idea of a clean working environment will find universal appeal. You can respect the individual’s right to privacy by making the process voluntary. The oral fluid lab test is a quick and simple test that detects substance ingestion up to 48 hours prior to the test.
The importance of a family run business with clean and healthy employees cannot be overemphasized. Setting the value boundaries early on ensures that the workplace stays clean, even as it continues to grow.