Why I Love Being Part of a Small Family Business

In honor of Small Business Saturday, Beth Rovazzini, president of Indianapolis-based B&W Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Drains, recently discussed why she loves being part of a small business. Here is her response.

A while ago, I was participating in an Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce networking group. The icebreaker question was: “If you could do or be anything you wanted, what would you be?” I searched my mind for what I would rather be doing if time, money and influence were not factors. Running a small family business is exactly where I want to be. I feel incredibly fortunate to have this job.

To me, running a small family business is a microcosm of life. It is an adventure, there is risk taking, problem solving, interpersonal relationships, joys, sorrows, victories and defeat. It is like being on the front line of a battle 24/7. You are responsible for the success and the failures. I wish you did not learn more from failures than successes. To me it is only a true failure if I repeat it. One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Edison: “I did not fail, I just found 10,000 ways that did not work.”

If you like clear boundaries and order, then running a small, family-owned business is not for you. The lines of family, work and personal time are blended together, and it is impossible to be in all three simultaneously. Just dealing with people can be challenging, and working with people you are related to can be messy, chaotic and fun.

When you run a small business, you get to experience both sides of the people equation. In working with customers, we strive to develop relationships, solve problems, offer choices, listen and ultimately improve the comfort and satisfaction of our customers’ home (or business).

We have been in business long enough that some of our customers have passed away. Just this past weekend, the husband of a longtime customer called for service. My heart went out to him; I remember talking to him during her illness. She wanted to get some things done in the house so it would be easy for him. We had to coordinate installation with her treatments and how she felt. It is amazing the connection you can have with someone when you just speak to him (or her) on the phone. One of the first customers I ever took a service call from, fortunately, is still with us. She raised her children and then helped raise grandchildren and great grandchildren. Just thinking about her makes me smile.

Behind the scenes, our team is bonded, working side by side every day, supporting one another at work and beyond. I attend school events, graduations, weddings and even funerals. I keep toys in my office for the little visitors when they come and pick up their mom or dad. When my son was a baby, I brought him to work with me. We hung a baby swing in a doorway near my desk. His first words were “Hi Guy” because all of the employees walked by and said, “Hi guy” to him.

Running a small business is rewarding to be able to see your accomplishments and know you helped make it happen. When I worked at a Big 8 accounting firm, I never felt like I made a difference or could make a difference. When I left, they just plugged in another accounting major and continued on. In a big company, the individual doesn’t matter; there are job descriptions and titles, and they are filled with applicants. In a small business, the talents of the individual are critical. If every member of the company doesn’t see the small business as a living entity, it is noticeable. You can’t hide indifference in a small business.

I like the hands-on approach to life. It really is my goal to find the best products, know how to install them in the right applications and provide exceptional service. Customer satisfaction provides job satisfaction to me. Most of our calls are from people having an unexpected problem. They are expecting to spend time and money. If we can solve their problem with the least amount of interruption in their lives and at the best price, we have achieved our goal.

Beth Rovazzini