Everything seems to hit harder when family is involved. Highs are higher and lows are lower. Which means mixing family and business is a dangerous pursuit, right?
It doesn’t have to be.
Jerry and Kelley Lujan have been working together at Elevation 180 for a little over three years now, but they’ve known each other all of Kelley’s life because Jerry is not just Kelley’s boss; he’s her father. Fortunately, with some simple boundaries and a greater understanding of each other, they’ve seen both their business and personal relationship flourish.
The dynamic duo recently sat down with Kolbe Corp CEO David Kolbe (no stranger to family business himself) to discuss some tips for making family businesses work, and the vital importance of understanding each other’s instinctive strengths.
While the Lujans had plenty of advice when it comes to family business, they highlighted three things specifically:
“I learned from my previous 30 some years of experience in a family business that there is no entitlement,” Jerry explains. “Everybody has to come in and perform. And when they do then you’ll get treated like everybody else does. But with that said, I also knew that the other people around would be looking at Kelley through a different lens. And in our case, Kelley proved herself somewhere else at a really high level. And so she didn’t come in just kind of needing a job.”
Business is business. Kolbe literally wrote the book on family business, and we titled it with this phrase for a reason. The Lujans’ experience demonstrates why.
“The first thing I said when I came in was, ‘I’ll agree to do this, but our relationship as father and daughter comes first no matter what comes at us.’ And there were some times in the beginning that [were] hard,” Kelley recounts.
At one point early on, Kelley asked Jerry for advice. She was asking as a daughter, but he responded as a boss, and it led to an emotional and essential discussion.
“And since we had that conversation, it hasn’t happened again, and we’ve moved forward so strong knowing each other really well. Having resources like Kolbe to balance off of helps so that we know each other. But that’s a big part that I think a lot of people need to have a discussion around.”
Here’s the big one. That part about knowing each other well? That matters more than anything. To avoid unnecessary levels of tension and conflict, you need to appreciate each other’s needs. That includes their preferences and desires, and it also includes their instinctive needs – their natural way of doing things.
“If you don’t feed all three parts of the mind, you’re going to burn out,” Kelley says, noting that’s what happened at her previous job.
“I was not at my best when I first joined. And I think being his daughter, I got some grace with that. But also, him knowing my Kolbe was a big part of that transition that I think made it successful. He really leaned into those instincts to make sure that I was in the right position, that I was set up for success and doing things that I could thrive when my instincts were all I had to rely on.”
“My mind is very entrepreneurial in nature,” Jerry adds. “I needed somebody to be as organized as she is, who could repeat things and keep things predictable. And it’s been just a blessing to truly have that much self-awareness for each other. I think we’re a perfect example of truly knowing yourself and knowing each other and understanding the gifts that we each have. When that clicks, it’s amazing how much can get done and how much fun it is.”
Want to learn more about your instinctive strengths and the needs of those you care about most? The best way to start is by taking the Kolbe A™ Index. To learn more about successfully running a strengths-based family business, check out Business is Business: Reality Checks for Family-Owned Companies.
You can also listen to our full conversation with the Lujan’s here: