In many ways, the way we run our families – not to mention many of the elements within our families – can be compared to similar elements in a structured business, and it can be fun thinking about where all your family pieces fit in a typical organization.
…do not ask me how I got started on this subject, because I honestly have no bloody idea.
I began thinking about, naturally, yours truly first. But most large companies aren’t run by only a single person. There’s a CEO, COO, CFO, C-whatever-O. There are Vice Presidents, Directors of this and that. Staff members are getting stuff done on a daily basis. And then you have little things like stress balls to clench when things get frustrating, or mind-numbingly dull board meetings.
Strangely enough, life is more similar to a business than I had ever imagined, so I came up with how our family resembles the structure of a traditional business. How does yours match up?
How our family resembles a business
First, just like any business, we need to make a profit. When our earnings surpass expenses, we are profitable. By living frugally and way below our means, this profit enables us to invest in our future by fully funding our retirement accounts, short-term savings, and cash-on-hand with enough left over to maintain our office space (our home). We are an outrageously profitable organization. If only we could figure out how to go IPO!
My wife and I also assume very traditional business roles in our little family organization.
I am the CEO – Meaning, I play the role of the dreamer or, to put it in more business-speak, the “visionary“. I dream up ideas of what I want to do. I beg and plead to retire tomorrow almost every damn day of the year. I come up with questions and what-ifs. If there is a new retirement idea, I will probably come up with it. But, my ability to actually implement these ideas is severely compromised.
I am seriously nothing more than a figurehead in all this, which is probably why I run this blog. I can talk and [hopefully] write a good game, but when it comes time to put all this stuff together into a plan for our retirement future, ah, that’s where I gladly hand over the reigns! I need someone who can implement a plan, or figure out what is possible.
I also need a force to push me back a little bit as I get anxious and/or overzealous about new ideas that may not be entirely feasible – at least yet. When I giggle like a school girl about something, I sometimes need a slap across the face (hi, honey!).
I am your typical CEO – big on ideas, but without support, I basically get nothing done.
My wife is the CFO and Director of Operations – Basically, she runs the shop. I may be standing around shootin’ the shit with people in the hallway or putting on a strong “I’m the leader” face, but my Director of Operations is the true brains behind this operation. Nothing really gets done without her.
Her ability to organize makes my half-assed elementary school version of tidiness look like chump change. This woman dreams in lists. She organizes in her sleep and wakes up centered, focused and completely honed in with everything going on around here. I’m out to lunch while she is planning out our first year of early retirement. Basically, she kicks ass.
Without my Director of Operations, this would be a true shit show. I’d have a bunch of ideas to play with but very few of them would actually get done – or done well. I might accidentally put together a collection of actions that somehow or some way resemble a planned endeavor, but honestly, it would probably appear more like child’s play compared to what my wife can orchestrate.
Having a skilled and dedicated Director of Operations is critical.
And she is also our CFO. She keeps the spreadsheets updated. She runs high-level calculations to determine the feasibility of my ideas. She also puts together our budget articles for the blog.
BTW – my wife insists that she’s only as good as the CEO lets her be. Without my crazy, hair-brained ideas, she wouldn’t get to flex her Director muscles quite as much or have nearly as much fun doing it. Yeah, she’s a good Director, buttering up to the CEO!
My parents serve as the advisory board – As some of you know, my folks traveled the country in an RV for 13 years, and full-time travel is also in our future. Their insight and advice as we move closer and closer to our post-retirement goals of travel have been invaluable. Though the advisory board possesses no decision-making abilities within the organization, their input gives us direction and a positive force to bounce things off of.
If one of my proposals passes the initial scrutiny usually provided by my wife and Director of Operations, it might be passed along to the advisory board for further analysis if it fits within their realm of expertise. Usually, a simple telecon suffices for this, but at least once a year, we executives meet face-to-face with the board to talk shop. I always leave a little wiser.
Our dogs are our stress balls – They are my go-to source whenever I feel stressed out (while rare, it can happen!). It’s funny how getting licked in the face by our dog can suddenly make life’s distractions disappear, at least temporarily.
Our “Easy Button” is attitude and the RV – In many ways, my “Don’t give two shits” attitude is my Easy Button, which is also closely related to thinking positively. With the right attitude, things really do become infinitely easier. Living in an RV will help, too. Time to give the entire house a cleaning? No problem – 15 minutes, done. Time to clean up the back yard? Fine – fold up the chairs and pack up the grill – finito! Man, that was easy.
Our friends are our customers – They are the ones who will either give us shit or kudos. While we don’t have to please our group of friends, it often is a careful marketing effort when talk of retirement or travel comes up. On one hand, we want to be honest and straightforward about our future, but on the other we don’t want to come across as spoiled or arrogant jackasses who will ride away into the sunset shouting “See ya, suckers!” when we do quit the rat race. It’s seriously all about the marketing.
I feel like discussing our retirement plans is like a commercial. We only have about 10 or 15 seconds to make a positive impact before the viewer begins to draw their initial opinion, and once that opinion is drawn, it’s darn tough to change their minds. Let’s face it – in general, we humans are pretty damn hard-headed.
What about your family? Can you draw similar business connections?
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.