How an iconic Chicago deli handled the onset of the pandemic offers an important Lesson Found about family businesses.

A recent radio story made me crave a visit to Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen to enjoy mouthwatering sandwiches as well as to support a family business doing the right thing.  Manny’s kept their full staff of 43 on the payroll through the shutdown (and before PPP).  When asked why, owner Dan Raskin explained “They’re our families, too.”  To keep his workers busy, Raskin took this good deed one step further by having them prepare meals both for the employees’ families and health care workers.

The story’s reporter aptly summed up this Lesson Found:  “One of the benefits of a family business is that they can run it more like a family than a business.”  All the family businesses I’ve ever worked with have one thing in common: They treat their employees like family.  Personally, I can’t remember a family celebration while growing up without our extended family from the business.  And this trait is almost universal among U.S. family businesses.   A 2017 survey of owners revealed that “taking care of employees”, along with the company’s long-run viability, was selected most often as the owners’ most important goal when planning for the future.  “Taking care of employees” was even cited more often than the owner’s own “financial security”.

Showing emotions through caring for your employees is what makes family businesses strong.  What gets family businesses in trouble is bringing the emotion of long-standing familial conflicts into the business. 

As I’ve noted previously, most family businesses “just” happen.  One or more family member has a good idea and then others pitch in.  Or, a child joins the business out of convenience or expectation.  This “natural” progression of the family business leaves out one very important step:  Structure creation.  Structure, such as governance policies, defines everyone’s role, compensation and the decision-making process.  Not only does this structure forestall familial conflicts but it also sets the stage for growth and the company’s long-term success.

Back to Manny’s for a moment.  Manny’s, like most restaurants, has suffered substantial losses due to this pandemic.  Here are links to where you can support this family business by ordering Manny’s famous Corn Beef Sandwich or Corn Beef cufflinks.  Thinking about tonight’s dinner and can’t wait for delivery from Chicago?  Reply to this email and I’ll send out a list of local family-owned restaurants you can support in exchange for a great meal!

Interested in an assessment of how well the structure of your family business supports a strong growth path while mitigating the risk of familial disputes?  Connect with me via email ( or call (717-439-6254) to schedule your free, no obligation initial consultation.

Life brings us lessons every day.  Sometimes from expected sources.  And sometimes from sources and situations we never would have thought possible.  Either way, they are a gift found. I am fortunate to find these types of lessons regularly and wanted to share them with you with this weekly series of “Business Lessons Found”.
Did you recently receive the gift of a Business Lesson Found that has helped you with management, marketing or another aspect in business? I would love to hear about it. Comment below or send me an email to let me know.