Miguel Garza might be the co-founder and CEO of his company, but that doesn't mean he gets to ride shotgun when he's out with his team.
That's because Siete Family Foods, an Austin-based company that makes grain-free tortillas and chips, is part of the 19 percent of U.S. small businesses that are family-owned. Garza co-founded Siete in 2014 with his older sister Veronica and their mother, Aida. Today, the company employs 41 people, including nine members of the Garza family. Its products can be found in more than 4,400 grocery stores across the country, including Whole Foods, where Siete says its almond flour tortilla is the chain's No. 1-selling tortilla nationwide.
As the baby in a family of seven (or siete, in Spanish), Garza still gets stuck riding in the "most uncomfortable part of the vehicle" when they go out to lunch. "If it deals with the business, then I'm the CEO," he tells Inc. "But then every other aspect of my life I'm on the bottom of the totem pole."
While making a family business successful requires tackling many of the same basic issues every other company does, the way you run it may need to be a little different. After all, you're working alongside people who gave birth to you, shared a bedroom with you, or covered for you when you sneaked out of the house.
Miguel and Veronica Garza will be speaking at the Inc. Founders House--part of the Founders Project, an initiative pairing prominent mentors with early-stage entrepreneurs--on March 10 in Austin. Here, Miguel offers the four biggest lessons the family has learned running their fast-growing business together.
1. It's easier to establish your company's culture.
There are "unwritten rules and values" that a family develops over time, Garza says. That framework provides a solid foundation for what your business's values will be, which can help you establish a strong company culture from the get-go. "We had a core group of people that we loved and trusted, and we didn't have to go out into the marketplace to find that," he adds.
2. You should also hire outsiders early on.
At the same time, one of the biggest hurdles family-owned businesses need to overcome is "everyone thinking the same and sharing the same perspective," says Garza, who notes that diversity of thought is really important to a company's success. Former chief operating officer Ben Ponder, who is not related to the Garza family, was Siete's first hire after the Garza siblings and their parents. The decision was "paramount to the initial success of the company," Garza says. Finding people who enjoy working in family-owned businesses but aren't part of your family, he adds, helps "bring in perspectives that will allow the team to grow over time."
3. Work-life balance is trickier.
Running a company with your family means that there's a lot of overlap between your personal and professional lives, say the Garza siblings, who admit family dinner conversations usually revolve around Siete. "The business is so integrated into our life that it actually becomes very difficult to separate it," Miguel Garza says.
4. Not every moment is do-or-die.
Like any other business, Siete Family Foods has had its share of ups and downs. For example, Garza once sent out a product sample to a Whole Foods buyer in a ziplock bag with a Post-it note. It took him about six months to convince the buyer that Siete Family Foods was actually a serious business and get placement in the chain's stores. The trick is to understand that not every setback is a do-or-die moment. "When you're moving so quickly, mistakes are going to happen," says Garza, stressing that Siete now sends product samples to buyers in far more attractive packaging. It's a sentiment echoed by his sister Veronica, who says you need to avoid losing sight of what's really important: "Our first core value is family first, family second, and business third."
Correction: This article originally identified Ben Ponder as the current chief operating officer of Siete Family Foods.