Boss and Day Offs
July 13, 2012 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to take 1-2 days off a week if you own a business?

My parents have owned this Asian grocery for 30 years. A big majority of people that have worked here are my uncles, aunts, sisters, and close family friends. I asked my dad why he only hired people that were like family. He said because sometimes people he hire that aren’t family end up stealing merchandise and he can’t trust them. My parents have grown to not trust people.

I was just thinking, if I were to own the store one day…I can’t always depend on family to work for me (especially since they’re getting old). Is it really that hard to find DEPENDABLE and TRUSTWORTHY workers? Maybe my parents just suck at hiring because I sort of notice sometimes they give people they know work because they NEED a job.

One other question. My parents are at the store every day and it is open every day. If I am the owner one day, is it possible to have 2 days off a week if I have enough help or is that unprofessional to you? I would hate to think that I would never have any free time at all. My mom and dad are here every day but they mostly come whenever they want, my dad sleeps in his office sometimes LOL, run errands, sometimes my mom leaves and goes shopping. But they never take days off at all. And my mom said it'd be hard to have family time if I own this place.

My sister and her husband owns a day care. Lucky them that they can have two days off a week because it is closed Sat. and Sun.
posted by Asian_Hunnie to Work & Money (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've spent a good portion of my adult life managing mom and pop stores in NYC (and being in that general milieu of those sorts of businesses) and few, if any, owners took off 2 days a week, every week. I managed the shops and I usually had one day off a week, myself. Finding competent, honest people to work at the shop isn't that hard, finding competent, honest people to run the business in your absence is really, really difficult. A lot harder than you think, probably.
posted by griphus at 10:30 AM on July 13, 2012

It depends how you define a day "off". It might mean still dropping by the store or taking calls.

I think you could find some dependable, reliable workers. Maybe a mom who just wants to work 1-2 days a week. Or someone who's retired and just wants to be out and interacting with people.

It also depends on how much money you want to make. If you have to pay someone, you lose that money.

You might want to read the E-Myth Solution by Michael Gerber. It talks about working on a business, rather than in it.

All the people who own 7-11s manage to not be in the store all day.

There are risks. Maybe good accounting, surveillance, reporting and hiring practices would enable you to hire employees.

Also, if your parents are both working in the store, they have twice the staff power that you do. You couldn't run your business the way they did, unless you also had free labour. So you'd have to figure out a new business model anyway.

Maybe you can find some ways to increase revenues or automate more sales. Write a business plan for the store - see if your parents are interested. Maybe there's a way to grow the business so that you don't all have to work your butts off.

But keep in mind that your parents may like this lifestyle and that the business is part of their lifestyle. That doesn't mean you have to run it the same way. Maybe you could try getting a part-time job at another store - perhaps something like 7-11 even - and taking part in retail management training and what-not. You might learn some stuff that you could bring back to this position.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:30 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

All of the small business owners I know end up working waaaay more hours than their employees, especially in the first few years. It's part of making a functional business work. The only exception to this are professionals (I'm specifically thinking doctors and lawyers) who are able to put in fewer hours because the back office can handle everything but the specialized skill they actually offer.

Ask your parents about this, and listen to them. Small business ownership (especially retail and food service where profit margins are often very slim) can be extremely stressful.
posted by phunniemee at 10:31 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

It might not be easy to find good employees, but it's not impossible. My parents had a small family business that I worked in for a few years. Over the time that I worked in the business, we had a number of employees who were not family or friends. Most of them were good employees—we had a couple who were slackers and a couple that were not a good fit in other ways.

So I don't know what the deal with your dad and his employees was. He may have had an adversarial relationship with his employees from the start that poisoned the well. He may have only imagined that they stole merchandise, or maybe he used that as a pretext. Maybe he had a run of bad luck. I don't know.

Anyhow, to answer your question, yes, you can find good employees, and yes you can take time off if you make it a priority. Also, you're not obliged to take over the business at all if you don't want to.
posted by adamrice at 10:33 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The other option regarding theft by employees is to except that it's going to happen and figure a percentage of loss into your calculations. It's not ideal, but most small shops probably expect a certain amount of loss.
posted by vitabellosi at 10:33 AM on July 13, 2012

Also, keep in mind that the general personality of small shop owners I encountered were such that if left to their own devices, they would work non-stop. This is what dissuaded me from ever wanting to open my own store. If you're not the sort of person who has to be told to take days off from owning a small store, you may not be the best person to run it.
posted by griphus at 10:33 AM on July 13, 2012

Owning a small business isn't for everyone, it's hard work and frequently it's not all that more profitable than a regular 9-5.

You have to LOVE your business or you have to have running a bodega as your only option/skill set. This is why so many immigrants get a foot-hold in the American economy with small businesses. You don't necessarily need strong language skills, nor do you need a skill set that can't be learned in about a week or so. (The basics, clearly refining these skills is where people make the money.)

What was good for your parents may not be the best choice for you, career-wise. if you don't have a burning desire to run this business from sun up to sun down, 7 days a week, then you might want to start making other plans.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:48 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dependable and trustworthy workers are expensive and have a lot of options.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:59 AM on July 13, 2012

No one watches your money like you do.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:06 AM on July 13, 2012

>>Is it really that hard to find DEPENDABLE and TRUSTWORTHY workers?

>>Is it possible to take 1-2 days off a week if you own a business?
In this case I'd say almost certainly no.
posted by Blake at 11:10 AM on July 13, 2012

The one thing you get cheap is your own labor, so while it may be possible to find someone reliable, it may not be financially feasible. Your parents might be protecting you from the realities of a low margin business...
posted by MarkAnd at 11:15 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

They also may like being there. If my options are being a slug at home with TV re-runs or being at work, I choose begin at work.
posted by Classic Diner at 11:38 AM on July 13, 2012

Small business owners who truly love their business have an emotional investment in its success, in addition to their obviously financial investments. They often have trouble finding employees they consister trustworthy and reliable because their definitions of those qualities involves the employee also having that kind of emotional investment. It's hard to see how or why a non-family member employee who is often making a low wage (counter work at a corner store isn't exactly a high paying position) would have that kind of investment and when they don't have it - don't want to work extra hours, don't want to come in on a day off, don't want to take on additional tasks - the owners think of them as "not reliable". They're not really, they're just run-of-the-mill minimum wage employees, but the expectations are skewed.

Your parents give family members jobs when they need them because then, when the screw turns and your parents need something from those family members they can call in a favour of their own. That works with families - it doesn't work with regular employees.
posted by marylynn at 12:00 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sounds depressing. I don't want to see the family store sold off or closed when they retire. =\
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 12:22 PM on July 13, 2012

My parents have owned five small businesse for 22 years. Just THIS YEAR they have been able to take extended vacations thanks to technology that allows them to monitor their store by computer. Still, my mother calls each of the store's managers each night to find out if anything eventful happened during the day and to check the day's tally.

I worked for them for 18 months and I regularly put in 10-12 hour days, six days a week. It's exhausting.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 12:24 PM on July 13, 2012

Do your parents actually want you to take over the store when they retire? If you haven't been groomed for running the place since you were a kid, either you're not the main player in their plan for the store's future or they're being rather shortsighted about this.
posted by griphus at 12:31 PM on July 13, 2012

(That is, if their retirement is in the near future, something tells me they're not just going to hand over the keys and say "here, it's yours now.")
posted by griphus at 12:33 PM on July 13, 2012

Response by poster: They said if I want it, I can learn about the finances, inventory, and all that when they are soon to retire. They said if none of my siblings or me want it they'll just sell it.
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 12:39 PM on July 13, 2012

Well, do you want to learn about all that stuff? I mean, are you excited about it? Because unless you're thinking "fuck yeah, the grocery store will soon be mine!" you are neither the best person to run it, nor will you be happy or satisfied with a life of running it. And one of the reasons your parents are working so hard is so that you can have a life where working seven days a week in a grocery store isn't the only option.

I grew up in an immigrant community, and there were a number of shop owners. Most of them didn't want their kids to follow in their footsteps because unless the kid has hella business acumen, a grocery store is a dead end. I don't know how old you are, but if you're an adult, and you haven't already stepped up to run the shop, and haven't had your own ideas about how to do something more with it, selling the store is probably the best idea. Small business owners are some of the most frugal people I know, so that money will probably be well taken care of until it's time to split it with your siblings.
posted by griphus at 12:52 PM on July 13, 2012

Response by poster: I do have my own ideas to do something with it. Anyways, you say a grocery store is dead end but we actually do good. We have mostly targeted southeast Asians but has evolved to Jamaican and West African customers lol. Anyways, I want to improve the look of the store to make it look cleaner and more professional. I would also like to add a online grocery for dried goods, gifts, and more. Our location is good because there aren't many other Asian groceries unless it's Chinese/Japanese which is probably about 40 minutes away. Also, we have built a long term relationship with our customers which I think has helped. Not just that, but the restaurant that my uncle runs next door is also locally famous which brings in even more customers.
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 1:12 PM on July 13, 2012

Response by poster: Also, I want to add that I know you may think we don't do well but on average a week we pull in at least 5k. I think its decent.
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 1:14 PM on July 13, 2012

Sounds depressing. I don't want to see the family store sold off or closed when they retire. =\

Also, I want to add that I know you may think we don't do well but on average a week we pull in at least 5k. I think its decent.

When you say "pull-in" $5000, is that before or after expenses? I mean, $5000 a week after expenses is $260,000 annually, that's better than decent. If it's before expenses, what ARE the expenses. What's the NET?

Even if that's the case, is lots of money, but no time to spend it your idea of a life's work.

I mentally rehab houses. I see something kind of yukky and I fixate about how to fix it, and I think about what would need to happen. At one time, my sister and I thought about going in together to flip houses. Thank Christ we didn't do it.

Sure, re-decorating the store and putting inventory on-line sounds neat-o, but then what? Ethnic neighborhoods move (hense more Jamaican and West African items in your store). The customers who were loyal to your parents may move or die and their kids didn't stay in the neighborhood.

Really think about this. There are lots of emotions attached to it.

Also if you have siblings and you get the store, what do they get? Would you be giving up some future inheritance in exchange for the store? Will there be hard feelings (Not that they wanted the store or anything, but hey, you got something!)

If you are seriously thinking about running the store. Start working there nights and weekends. Really understand the culture of it, learn the day-to-day. If you balk at doing this because it will eat into your social-life, dude, you are so NOT ready to run the store.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:26 PM on July 13, 2012

I am going to guess from the similarity of your names and questions that you are the same poster of this question.

I think it would be very beneficial to you to have a serious sit down with your parents/family about business prospects, and see how much creative problem solving you're able to do on your own. MetaFilter isn't going to be able to help you with all of your business questions and needs.
posted by phunniemee at 1:27 PM on July 13, 2012

+1 on the E-myth book. Also, if you feel this business has to be your life, evaluate carefully how well it pays and what profit goes to the owner ABOVE an hourly wage for working every day and not having a life. Earning a below-market wage for yourself as a business owner is NOT equal to "we make a profit.". If you couldn't hire people to replace yourself and keep it going, the business might as well not exist, because you might as well work for someone else and make the market rate as a clerk/manager.

More directly to your question, people who are not related to you who are capable of operating your business do exist. Every business with more than one location is proof of this.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:27 PM on July 13, 2012

To those who are questioning the lack of overt succession planning, most family businesses don't. Unfortunately.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:29 PM on July 13, 2012

Anyways, you say a grocery store is dead end but we actually do good.

Oh, I didn't mean the store isn't necessary doing well.
Assuming there aren't any catastrophes or Wal-Marts on the horizon a grocery store can be passed down from generation to generation and support family after family. People always need groceries. That's not what I meant by "dead end" (which, admittedly, is a little harsh.)

What I mean is that with a grocery store the best you can do is have a really nice grocery store. Unless you expand either horizontally (establishing more grocery stores) or vertically (becoming a producer of something you sell), or take the store in a different direction (like the web store you're thinking about), there's an upper limit to how much money you can make with a grocery store. Profit margins don't change for the better and if you're buying a can of soup for a dollar and selling it for two, that's the long and short of it. As far as starting an online store, you're going to be either competing with Amazon or working with Amazon. You need to figure out if either of these strategies is even worth the time and investment.
posted by griphus at 1:30 PM on July 13, 2012

Response by poster: I've been doing a lot of thinking about it so naturally I would have different questions come to mind. I come here because I believe this place has good advice and conversations for me to think about.
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 1:30 PM on July 13, 2012

Also, depending on whether or not your parents own the property the store is on, you can sell the store but not the land and collect rent on it.
posted by griphus at 1:31 PM on July 13, 2012

Response by poster: Yeah, we own the building. But I do want to take over. I feel like you guys are saying that it's a bad idea =\
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 1:42 PM on July 13, 2012

It doesn't sound like a good idea for anyone who wants reliable weekend and vacation time. You'll need to balance how important that is to you with the other factors, like wanting to continue what your parents have built up.

Do you work at the store now? Have you worked at the store in the past? Is it a kind of work you find fits well with your skills and temperament?
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:16 PM on July 13, 2012

I seem to recall from an earlier question that you were in college/university or taking courses. Does your school have any kind of career counseling services? That might help you sort out your plans.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:18 PM on July 13, 2012

Response by poster: I already work there on the weekends. You say to keep in mind of these people that might move away. We get new customers all the time through word of mouth, there's always new people. We have the old customers and we also get new long term customers.

I'm in school. They have career counseling but I don't have my degree yet.
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 3:30 PM on July 13, 2012

Sorry about the typos and whatnot, but I'm running out the door and wanted to respond.

I'm going to buck the trend here and say it can absolutely be done. I own a few small businesses. I take a lot of multi-day to multi week vacations. I have employees that I give managerial duties to.
I also know many many other people who own small businesses and are frequently absent. One in particular is in the same type of business as you, though he owns a few small corner bodegas as opposed to asain groceries.
It's all in the way you set up the business to run, and in the employees you keep to work there. Get systems in place that help the business to run more on auto pilot. Have a very detailed employee manual that covers all procedures. Set up accounts so that you can pay them all ACH...things like this.
I don't believe necessarily that family members are the ideal employees. They have the ability to steal as well as those non-related. But, you will on occasion hire that rare gem that you can trust to not only do the right thing by your business, but also to be able to make good judgement calls in your absence. These people don't come around often, but if you treat them well and with respect, give them a decent wage, and show that you appreciate their efforts, they tend to stick around for a while.
Think about it, these are the people who without which there would be no branch stores or second locations or expansions of small businesses. Businesses expand because an owner has a great employee who they feel can handle the responsibility of running their own shop under the brand that they've created.
(As an aside, I tend to really appreciate those who have OCD tendencies...they make up where my hazy attention to details sometimes lacks)
Every business is different, and every business owner has their own personal level of comfort of leaving the business in the hands of someone else to mess up while they are away. It's up to you to determine whether it will work right for you or not.
There are also different profit margins. I'm going to assume that the $5000 number is the amount that's being taken out of the business each week. That certainly leaves you with a nice enough cushion to pay someone well enough in your absence. If it's not, and if you have very thin profit margins, then maybe you should think about it a little more.
That being said, a few caveats: No one but an owner has what I call "owners eye's". In your type of business, this will matter a lot because you want to make a favorable impression on your customers. Non- owners tend to not see things from the perspective of the customer like an owner does.
You will need to accept that the business will never be run as well as when you are there. Most of the time this is not an issue if you are running the business successfully. An occasional blip is tolerated. If it becomes a regular thing though, it's a problem. You will need to stay on top of what's happening either while you are away, or immediately when you return. With all the technology today, I can run my businesses most days without being present. I have good relationships with my suppliers and contractors and repairmen, etc. and if something breaks or we run out of something, I get a text from the employee and I make a phone call and a delivery is received or a piece of equipment is fixed or whatever issue that came up is resolved.
I do deal with the cash exclusively myself, though in the past I had a trusted employee do this for me in my absence. It usually worked out fine, but once or twice there were some issues of misplaced trust on my part. This is the price I pay to not being glued to my business, though. I'm okay with that.
You will get a lot of conflicting advice, I'm sure. The best idea, I think, is to look around you at similarly run and sized shops in your area and see how they do it. If they have figured out a way to run the shop without being there 7 days, you probably could as well.
Also, is there any reason why you couldn't take over management of the business for a year or two to see how you like it/how well it works for you and you for it, and if it's not going well then your parents can sell it?
I don't think the job market for recent or soon to be grads is anything to be rushing towards these days, and this might be a great opportunity for you.
Good luck!
posted by itmightbecheese at 5:01 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think most schools have some kind of career counseling for current students. If not, think about whether investing in a couple of sessions with a private career counselor--try to find someone who's a member of the National Career Development Association if possible.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:01 PM on July 13, 2012

I guess I'm repeating what everyone else said, but maybe I have some insight for you.
Is it really that hard to find DEPENDABLE and TRUSTWORTHY workers?
Said before, but yes, yes it is. Especially for minimum-wage jobs. Especially at a place like a grocery store where the staff, who feels overworked and underpaid, could use what's on the shelf. And at a place like a grocery store where... well who cares if I don't show up today? The place will run without me.
Maybe my parents just suck at hiring because I sort of notice sometimes they give people they know work because they NEED a job.
Possibly. Family run businesses are notorious about poor hiring. But really, a grocery store has incredibly high turnover. Skilled, reliable, trustworthy workers find themselves better paying jobs pretty quickly.
If I am the owner one day, is it possible to have 2 days off a week if I have enough help or is that unprofessional to you?
It's not unprofessional in any way. Just unrealistic. Grocery stores run on some of the smallest margins of any business. Problems need to get handled immediately or the store doesn't make any money this month. (Or year.) Point Of Sale system busted? It's on you to get it fixed ASAP. Refrigeration in the seafood section broken? Get that fixed within the hour or $10K worth of fish is going in the dumpster. Shipment gets there at 5am? Guess who has to let them in and sign the invoice. Supplier discontinues product X and doubles the price on product Y. What do you do? And guess who runs to the bank to get change when the cash registers run short of $1's and dimes.

It sounds like you really have no idea what goes on inside the family business. You should find out. Shadow your parents at work for a few weeks at very least. And ask questions. It might be horribly mismanaged, but I doubt it by the simple fact that it's still in business. Careless grocery stores go out of business very quickly.

For what it worth I have a friend who inherited his father's small-town grocery and loves the job. But he was working there, learning how it works from the age of 5.
posted by Ookseer at 9:46 PM on July 13, 2012

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