What family business legacies will survive beyond Coronavirus?

family business

My husband and I started a small tourism business in 1990; we‘ve been at it for 30 years. We take motorcycle tours between Cairns and the tip of Cape York. While building the industry, we also raised two children who are now adults working in the business. That was not our intention, but that is what eventually happened.

In the early days, our business was unpredictable, and we worked so hard, and I didn’t want that for my kids. I wanted them to have stability. My husband didn’t want them to feel obliged to follow in his footsteps. We wanted them to find their own, solid paths. Little did I know that they had started their education in this business from birth.

I remember one day when there was a yelling match between the three and five-year-old siblings that required my attention, and I had bought them both into the kitchen to sort it out. The kitchen was where the landline telephone was firmly connected. Of course, it rang, and Mummy went into business mode. It wasn’t until I’d hung up that I realised they’d both continued the argument in whispers. The volume was turned up again when the phone was back in the cradle. Lesson one!

Our son, at 12, decided that he was going to finish school and do what Dad does! Dad and I said no way, not until you have the same skills as someone we would hire. He qualified as a mechanic; he worked for someone else and then came back asking. We put him on in the office for 12 months and told him that he had to be educated in the workings of the business, not only the fun part. We thought this would snap him out of it but, No! He’s now one of the best tour guides we have.

Our daughter recently took over the social media side of our business; she’s done a whole heap of training that has bought her right back to our business as well. She can ride with the boys, she’s done engineering on boats, has learned to be away from home and confined to a ship, and she has studied to be a medic. All beneficial elements to run a small business like ours.

I started to believe that we’d built a small family legacy to pass on to them. I was feeling pretty confident about the whole idea, the business was doing great, and I was proud that the kids were interested in keeping the ship sailing. Now, near the end of 2021, and after two years of dealing with border closures and watching our seasonal work be decimated, I am kept awake at night.

What kind of a legacy will be left for them if this “Corona” situation is not taken care of in the short term? If we look around for a moment to see how many families are in the same boat with no control over their situations – it is mighty frightening!

This thing is not only affecting businesses; it is affecting families with generations of hard work behind them. How do you plan for this, and how long is it going to go on? Where is the anchor? We need some stability here!

In 2020 we had some government support mechanisms to fall back on, for example, Jobkeeper. Still, the assistance in 2021 is pitiful compared to the losses sustained, and that is if you are even eligible to apply.

Small family businesses have been completely forgotten. We’re out on our own, but those of us who survive this will be unstoppable in the future.

Let’s be heard now! Do you have a story to tell?