As president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, I have been invited into hundreds of businesses in all parts of the state. Chamber members have been extremely generous in sharing their stories and confiding how they shake off their frustrations and setbacks and, likewise, animate their professional hopes and dreams. The conversations that most resonate for me are from owners of small, family-run businesses. That's because I, too, am part-owner of such an enterprise.
My parents started a wholesale distribution company in Providence in 1952 for the heating industry. My brother has successfully shepherded the business into the next generation. While he runs the day-to-day operations, he has given me the opportunity to help him think about the "big picture" and ways to innovate for the future. We are partners working at opposite ends of the equation.
As a child, I remember alphabetizing stacks of customer invoices on the kitchen counter, then driving downtown at night with my father to the post office to get them in the mail. In elementary school, I begged my parents to let me do more, and over time, they did.
Fast-forward to today, I can speak with empathy about small-business survival. The shared experiences of finding motivated workers, keeping costs down, growing the customer base, raising capital, coping with cyberthreats, dealing with the cloud, gassing up the truck, deciphering government paperwork and even getting the dumpster emptied – all of this makes my heart soar. Family business is a very precious thing. •