People who work in a good, well-run company take a lot for granted. They have clear goals, they generally get the tools they need to do the job, and they have channels in which to share their feedback. They have HR departments to make sure no one’s breaking the law.
You can tell you work for a well-run company if you don’t have to pry your white knuckles off the steering wheel before you make yourself go into the building.
Now, not all companies are good, and some are only good in certain areas. But it’s generally accepted that these are worthwhile practices.
Family-run businesses, on the other hand, tend to have practices that exist by tradition — or worse, whim. There is a person at the top, and everything is geared toward his or her approval. Promotions are too often made on the basis of blood, and there’s usually frustration on the lower rungs who know they will never have the same opportunities to rise.
It is an unusual family business that brings in a management consultant, and it is even more unusual when they actually listen to them, and implement changes. (It’s almost always a child of the owner, who sees the problems and wants to change them, who talks the parent into paying for a consultant.)
But they can’t make the owner accept change. It rarely happens.
And this is what I think about when I look at Donald Trump, and the anxious, approval-seeking children who surround him. They are not independent — each one of them is on a leash. Because when your business experience is based on a family dynamic, you never really learn how to follow best practices for a corporate environment. They’re afraid to leave, and rightly so. Their only recourse is to start their own successful business.
I think about this because when I was an executive recruiter, I would occasionally bring a resume to my boss where the recruit worked for a family business. “This one seems pretty good,” I’d say. My boss wouldn’t even look up. “Toss it,” he’d say. “No family businesses.”
I thought this was harsh, and overly general. But the older I get, the more I see the wisdom. I looked at George W. Bush’s resume (while he did not work directly for a family business, pretty much everything he did was through friends of the family, and not his own merit), and Donald Trump’s. This is a man who, for whatever reason (ADD, dyslexia, OCD, anxiety — who knows?) cannot function within a normal corporate structure. Even when his companies looked like they were functioning from the outside (I’m thinking of his Atlantic City casinos), they were falling apart on the inside.
So he’s created his companies in his own image, propped up by largely shady business practices where he simply ignores long-term outcomes and keeps things running with enormous loans that make him indebted to foreign interests.
And now this man’s at the wheel of the ship of state. God help us all.
It’s not just that he should be fired. He shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. We had a perfect candidate, and we deliberately picked the worst one.