For much of my childhood, my parents owned and operated a small business. My mother was a reluctant entrepreneur. My father was the dreamer, the visionary, always plotting and planning for the next “big” thing, sometimes moving on to a second idea before finishing the first. In the early 1970s, his big thing was to open a campground.
My mother was the realist in the pair, the support system, and the heart of it all: the one who made things happen and kept both family and business running smoothly. I don’t know that she had a chance to offer her thoughts during the nascent stages of my father’s plans to enter the tourism business; I’m not sure that my parents had ever even visited a campground. In fact, I imagine that their conversation about embarking on this journey started (and ended) with something like this: “Josephine, we’re going to open a campground!” And that was that.
Small businesses bring vision to life
Seeing my father’s ideas through to fruition was my mother’s role. While my dad was working to build the structure to house the laundry and recreation room, my mom was building relationships with local associations and vendors. When my dad was clearing land for new campsites, my mom was cleaning restrooms. As my dad took campers out for a day of fishing, my mom was taking reservations. My dad paid visits to campers while my mom was paying bills. As is the case with every small business, there were dozens and dozens of tasks that had to be completed each day to ensure success. My mom did most of them herself, all while doing the other things mothers do. I’m sure we never appreciated everything she accomplished enough.
I saw some data recently that said that 19 percent of small business owners work more than 60 hours a week, with 89 percent working weekends and 81 percent working nights. This probably underestimates my mother’s contribution (and even that of my father)—and perhaps the time you devote to your business, too.
Is this true for you?
19% of small business owners work more
than 60 hours a week,
with 89% working weekends and
81% working nights.
Technology transforms small business
My days of giving campers directions to their sites are over. Today, I work for Cisco, sharing the ways technology can help small businesses survive and thrive. I often think about the difference technology could have made in the way my mother completed her many varied tasks. My family lived and worked in an old inn on the rural campground property, a radically different way to think about “remote work” or “work from home.” We had a single phone line for our home and business (no answering machine or voicemail!), a view of the driveway to watch for guests, and lots and lots of files.
Imagine if there had been Internet connectivity and technology (even the most basic IP phone system) to stay connected with customers, partners, and vendors; applications to manage reservations and financial records; cameras to track activity at entrances and in common spaces; and cybersecurity to protect it all.
The right technology might have been a game changer. And, it certainly would have made life easier.
My parents are both gone, and the campground is too, replaced years ago by another of my father’s dreams (which my mother managed): an apartment building providing housing for the elderly. Ironically, my sisters, brother, and I are now the reluctant entrepreneurs who own the property, though we hire a manager who earns every cent of her salary doing all the work my mother once did.
It’s Mother’s Day here in the U.S., so I’m remembering my mother today especially and thinking of all mothers around the globe who are the hearts of their family’s small businesses.
Happy Mother’s Day!