2004 Fall/Winter Volume No. 4
Family Business Makes The World Go Round
Vernon Hills, President
Watching the nightly news, you would think the whole world has gone crazy with war and terrorism. However, if you travel the world as much as I do, you realize that violence is localized in only a few areas. Generally, people around the world have the same interests you do. They don’t want to blow up their neighbors—they want to sell them something. Business is a great force for peace. And the most important force in business is the family.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's (GEM) annual study of entrepreneurial activity around the world, three-quarters of all firms are family firms, defined as those that have some family participation and whose strategic direction is in the control of a family. Nearly all enterprises start out as a family business.
And while we tend to think in the West that we invented the family business, it’s actually just as widely recognized and respected in other places as it is in America or Great Britain. In fact, the GEM survey found that the United States ranked only No. 7 in entrepreneurial activity out of 29 countries studied. The U.S.’s neighbor, Mexico, was number one, followed by New Zealand and Australia.
As your family business struggles to meet the challenges and maximize the rewards of running a successful portable sanitation operation, there are other families on the far side of the world struggling with the same challenges and toward the same goals.
More often than not, when I sit down to make a deal with a new PolyJohn business partner, whether I’m in Istanbul or Tokyo, I find myself at some family’s dinner table.
Many of PolyJohn International’s distributors and sister companies are family-owned and operated. Our Brazilian operation is owned and operated by the remarkable Massa family. Gunter and Brigitte Stenz of Nurnberg, Germany just celebrated their 15th anniversary as our German distributor. In Greece, where we have been busy supplying units for the 2004 Summer Olympics, we work with Dimitris Vanas and his family.
Family values in business around the world are a lot more similar than we imagined years ago. Maybe that's an unexpected effect of globalization, the movement toward the lowering of barriers and the opening of perspectives among cultures, countries and folks. No matter what language people speak or who they pray to, they still want what’s best for their children.
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