Focusing o the Mission: Lessons Learned from One Family’s Charitable Endeavors

Posting by Joel C. Susco, CPA

The 4th Annual Brain Aneurysm Race for Awareness 8K in Memory of Timothy P. Susco was hosted on Saturday, October 1st.  The race originated in 2008, as a tribute to the memory of my nephew who passed away at the age of 25 due to a ruptured brain aneurysm.  The race raises donations to support brain aneurysm research and organ donation awareness programs.  However, this race is more than just a memorial to my nephew, it is our family business.  This race has become much more than just a one day event, it is now a lifelong endeavor that provides our family the same purpose, excitement, and challenges that face family businesses each and every day.

The race was the brain child of my sister-in-law Nancy, Tim’s mom. I call her our founding member.   She knew how important is was to keep Tim’s memory alive and, if possible, to give back to the community with the hope that other families would in some way benefit from our commitment to these causes.

Like any business, our family first had to decide what to do and where to do it.  Since Tim was a runner, we decided that a race to raise awareness and donations would be an appropriate tribute. And naturally the race would be held at the high school, his alma mater.

Next it was time to conjure up support from our family members.  Having a pretty nice size family, it was quite easy to convince 15 other family members to help with this great cause. Our group grew quickly and everyone had an important  role to play, from my eighty year old parents down to their five year old granddaughter.

Like any family business, initial capital needed to be raised to cover the expenses until donations began to roll in.  The first year provided our family with many challenges.  Having never run in a race let alone plan one, we were faced with many unexpected obstacles that needed to be overcome.  Despite these challenges we were able to complete our goal, and we definitely learned a lot along the way.  We liked having meetings to discuss what worked well, and what didn’t. These meetings became a useful tool which helped us plan for subsequent years.  We found that we all work well together, with each one of us having a different skill that complemented one another.  And certainly, we had our disagreements. With meetings of up to 15 people, we could, at times,  have 15 different thoughts on a particular matter.  But no matter if we agreed or not, we all knew that we were working toward a common goal, and we would remind each other of that real focus.  It was that honest feedback and our ability to keep one another in check that helps keep the race thriving today.

I have seen it many times that a family business loses its real focus and it is at that point that the business may start to flounder.  So take some advice from our family and keep the focus on the mission and you will run a successful company (or race).

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