Taking the Crooked and Wide Path to Running My Family Business
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
If anyone had asked a much younger me if I was going to take over my family business, I would have given them a hard “no”. Yet here I am, decades later, not just doing it but loving it. My path to get here was nothing if not crooked and wide. I had originally planned to go into psychology – I have two degrees in the subject – to work with marginalized youth. And I did do that, for years.
But things started to shift for me in the years before I took over my family business in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I was restless with my work and felt like I hadn’t meshed with my job. I loved working with youth and their families but otherwise felt like I didn’t belong. I tried different work places but the culture of child and youth services was too plodding for me. For someone else, it might have felt just fine. But I was also feeling stagnant and unchallenged. As a career professional, I enjoyed opportunities for new learning, continued growth, and making an impact. I hated to admit it but the not-for-profit sector had lost its lustre for me.
So, I started looking for a different situation, one that provided better mesh between me and my job. I aimed to step outside of my own narrow vantage point. I sought helpful advice and direction from others in the same career and outside of it, including from a career coach. I started considering careers that didn’t even exist when I went to university. I thought of situations, jobs, and creative projects from the past when I felt connected and purposeful. I tried to identify the specifics of the career and work environment that I really needed to be at my best, including what to avoid.
Looking back, I wish I had understood myself better and chosen a career that was aligned with my values AND my career needs. I also wish I hadn’t narrowed my options so soon and been able to explore other careers. But in the process of changing my career to take over my family business, I developed valuable skills including the ability to identify what to learn for the jobs of the future and how to develop the emotional resilience to navigate change – and not be limited by other people’s expectations or my own doubts. I also needed to balance the search for a new career that I was passionate about with my economic realities.
Initially, I started at Lamenza Corporation on a part-time basis, straddling both the not-for-profit world and the business world for a few years before I fully took it over. I sought advice from my father on issues that we were both invested in. But I also faced challenges including having different work styles, balancing what worked in the past with trying something new and my enduring desire to make a social impact. Looking to the future, my goal is to make Lamenza Corporation a social purpose real estate company that has a double bottom line of community benefit and profit. Real estate that facilitates social interactions and supports community economic development is critical to our sense of belonging and just as important as our sewers, roads, and other traditional infrastructure.
We all want to have work that makes us spring out of bed in the morning, that feeds our souls and allows us to create the life we want for ourselves, and our families. In my case, I want that for our employees and our community too. And at this stage in my life, after making such a big swerve, I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to share that experience.