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When Family and Business Mix Well Together

I’m fortunate enough to have a great family. I was recently telling my younger sister – who happens to be attending Michigan State University – that even though I’ve been in the business world for about 15 years, I’m constantly meeting new people and learning new things. It’s part of what keeps a successful business culture moving in the right direction.

Interestingly enough, during our conversation, she was telling me about a business idea she has for when she graduates. Now, I’ve done some business with family members before, and been part of projects between families, and I can vouch for the fact that the “Business / Family dynamic” may have a solid success rate from a revenue standpoint, but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of interpersonal communications and relationships. Translation: when family members do business with one another, it’s not always a pretty site.

However, another recent experience I had totally validated a notion about when family and business DO mix well together.

The perfect example of a strong family, in the figurative sense of the word, is the Junior Chamber International (JCI), also known as “The Jaycees.” Come on, you know you’ve heard of them. They’ve been around for 100 years, have more than 200,000 members, 5,000 local chapters and 100 national organizations. Their mission is essentially to make a positive impact on their communities. Each chapter takes on it’s own project to impact positive change.

They held their National Convention in Nashville last weekend (March 26-28), and I was asked to participate. Before the invitation, I really didn’t know much about the organization, but from the professionalism and hospitality of Chrystal Ramsay-Dyess (Director of Member Services for JCI), to the atmosphere and knowledge-sharing I observed at the event, I was thoroughly impressed and humbled at what this group is accomplishing.

My role was to participate in a Social Media Panel Discussion, led by Rachel Henderson, Senior Communications Officer for Nothing But Nets (an amazing organization for those of you who aren’t familiar). I was joined by Brooks Thomas, Social Business Advisor for Southwest Airlines, Dr. Chris Cooper, Co-Founder and COO of Go Where I Go (GWIG) – a phenomenal app that quantifies the power of word of mouth business referrals into a valuable analytics dashboard, Jay Johnson, Founding Partner of WorldLink Communications – an impressive solutions firm based in Redford, Michigan, and Noelle Dunckel, the self-proclaimed “Real Life Leslie Knope” – Project & Events Manager, Indiana Office of Small Business & Entrepreneurship.

What I didn’t realize heading into the panel discussion is that I was probably the person with the least amount of knowledge about the JCI. What hit me smack in the face during the event, was the way that the members treat one another, look out for each other, and help each other understand, face and conquer challenges.

Just like any strong family, or business.

Talking about the significance of Social Media in Business was part of it for me, and learning from my colleagues on the panel was amazing, but observing a group of successful impact-makers like the JCI members was truly the best part of it for me. A part I’ll never forget.

Now as I reflect on how I can improve my family, grow in business, and make a difference in my community, I’ll know that the Jaycees are a great recommendation for any 18-40 year old (from my sister in college, to myself and co-workers) looking to do positive things.

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