Sam and Dean Winchester run a small family business, that, like many third generation businesses, isn’t as profitable as they would like. Still, thanks to a strong work ethic and good word of mouth, the boys have managed to keep the doors open and the work flowing. Which is more than we can say for the 100’s of small family businesses that close up shop every day.
Does your family business need a boost? Here are five lessons you can learn from the TV series Supernatural.
Family businesses are complicated
Like most brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester have a history that often gets in the way of getting the job done. And Dean’s need to always be his little brother’s protector constantly rubs Sam the wrong way.
When family squabbles dominate the workplace, it’s the employees and customers that are the biggest losers. The best way to keep family drama out of the mix is to hire a trusted, outside party to act as the voice of reason and tie-breaker. Then listen when he tells you that you’re basing your business decisions on past history instead of what’s best for the bottom line.
Even so you’re stronger together
Even though their relationship is often bumpy, Sam and Dean have learned that they’re stronger together than apart. Their opposite personalities help keep the other on an even keel and their combined talents make them a formidable foe. With Sam’s computer skills and Dean’s keen hunter instincts, those pesky demons don’t have a chance in hell of succeeding with their plan.
Instead of struggling for power in your business, work together by accentuating each person’s talents. If little brother is the computer whiz, let him take over the inventory and ordering process. Sister is a natural people person, so she should take over sales or employee management. When everyone knows their place in the company, the pieces fit together beautifully. The hard part is remembering that once someone is put in charge of a task, everyone else has to step aside.
What you wear matters
HP recently revised their dress code for developers, barring them from wearing t-shirts and sandals to work. These guys work behind the scenes, so it’s not a customer issue. It’s about creating a sense of professionalism that HP hopes will influence the quality of the work. That may sound silly but people who work from home have always been told not to work in your pajamas, even though you can. There’s something about getting dressed that changes your own perception of yourself.
In Sam and Dean’s world, how they dress is the difference between getting taken seriously and getting kicked out. When they show up at a crime scene wearing a suit and tie, witnesses and law and local cops barely glance at their phony IDs. The act isn’t as convincing when they’re wearing casual shirts and jeans.
Like it or not, there’s an air of authority that comes with the right clothes. You don’t have to wear your father’s suit and tie to work, but a clean, industry appropriate outfit is a must if you want to keep ahead of the pack.
The old way probably isn’t the best way anymore
When you inherit a family business, you also inherit the old way of doing things. But processes that were put into place in the 1960’s probably aren’t the most efficient way of doing things anymore. It’s time for an upgrade, but for people like Dean, change isn’t easy because the old way is dad’s way and that means it comes with a ton of emotional baggage.
Sam, on the other hand, sees change as a good thing. He’s the son who questions everything, the one who has had a taste of life on the outside. He thinks his decisions are based on education and rational thought but the truth is Sam is just a influenced by the past as his brother is. But instead of automatically accepting his father’s way as Dean does, Sam automatically rejects it – not because it’s a bad idea but because of his daddy issues.
Is your business in need of an upgrade? Sit down with staff members or an outside party and review the systems, machines and processes. Don’t automatically toss out the old if it truly is the best way to do the job. For example, billing by hand was the only option in 1950, but today we have computer programs and online payment systems that will help you get your money faster and with less chance of a mistake. Those handmade meatballs, however, won’t taste the same if you run them through a machine and freeze them for faster service.
Finding the work is as important as doing the work
Sam and Dean spend long hours pouring over local newspapers and tracking down online rumors in order to find their next job. It’s boring work, especially for Dean who would rather be chasing vampires than chasing a lead but it’s what a modern hunter has to do if he wants to work.
In the old days, businesses relied on word-of-mouth and loyal customers. There were fewer choices and fewer ways to communicate over long distances so recommendations were easier to come by. Your family restaurant might have been the only one for 20 miles back in your grandparent’s day but now there’s one on every corner. If you sit and wait for the customers to find you, like they did back then, you’ll soon be sitting under a going out of business sign. You have to hustle. You have to advertise. You have to constantly come up with new ways to attract new people to your business.
Like Sam and Dean, you’ll find those new customers on the internet, all you have to do is learn to read between the lines. Bleeding walls? After Sam and Dean vanquish that vengeful spirit, some home owner is going to need new wallpaper. Ka-ching.
There is one final business lesson you can learn from Sam and Dean Winchester of Supernatural. It’s the most important lesson, in fact: if it was easy everybody would do it.
If a day at work feels like a week in hell, it’s time for a change. Unless, of course, you’re a Winchester. In that case, it’s just business as usual.
Supernatural Pictured: Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester, Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as John Winchester Credit: © The WB/ The CW