A Guy Who Incorporated His Family On How To Run Yours Like A Business

Probably not what you meant by "home office."

by Jonathan Stern
Originally Published: 

You’ve probably thought about firing your kids. Or, at the very least, giving them a 15 to 20-year displacement until they got their act together. If so, entrepreneur and father of 6, Mark Timm is your hero. And after decided that he was killing it as the CEO of his company and … whatever the opposite of killing it is … at home, he pulled the trigger and did something kind of extreme. He started running his family like his company.

“I could make a decision with 100-percent clarity at work, and I couldn’t make the first decision at home. It really impacted me,” says Timm, whose day job is running Cottage Garden, a company that specializes in music boxes. “I found ways to spend more time [at work] to do what I was rewarded for and where I felt productive.”

Mark Timm

With his work life balanced, and his home life unbalanced, Timm did what any serial entrepreneur would do, and incorporated his family (like the Brady’s, except Timm has 2 girls and a boy, and his wife had 2 boys and a girl) into an LLC. “I said to myself, what if the most valuable business that I will ever be a part of is not the one I go to, then the one I come home to? I went to the extremes because I know business, but it’s really about intentionally leading.”

Here’s how a few things you probably already know about the working world has made his family’s stock soar.

Everyone Needs To Be In

“I want to be fair to anyone who reads about this,” says Timm. “It’s not an overnight thing. The first key was getting my wife to opt in. It did take some time to marinate. The reality is I didn’t have buy in right away. My family liked their habits, but one of the most powerful things in the business is developing a habit of success.” If that doesn’t work, tell them you’ll throw in Hawaiian shirt Fridays.

Mark Timm

They’re Not Employees, They’re Shareholders

Timm made sure his family knew they weren’t going to punch a clock at breakfast. Each one was given an equal share in Timm LLC. “My kids all own equal share. My youngest child owns the same number of shares as I do. When you look at things as an employee you have a different set of glasses than as an owner. But you all should have ownership over the family business.”

Hold Weekly Meetings

As someone who has probably gotten their fair share of redundant TPS reports at the office, you know communication is key. “Shareholder meetings didn’t go so well in the beginning,” says Timm. “If they could have voted me out they would have. I tried to communicate like I did with my staff, but they were having none of it.” Instead, Timm lets each of kids lead the discussions, and now they ask for meetings. One of the unexpected byproducts of this is giving his whole family the ability to speak up, present clearly, and hold court in a conference room. “It’s amazing what a $3.99 tub of ice cream can do,” he says.

“Shareholder meetings didn’t go so well in the beginning. If they could have voted me out they would have.”

Craft A Mission Statement

“Our mission statement is something important,” says Timm, whose own family motto is “Love God. Live Right. Lead All Out.” “Every time we get stuck we go back to those 3 things. We know what we’re about,” he says. Go ahead and ask your kids what your own motto should be. If it’s “Paw Patrol, We’re On A Roll” you may want to hire an outside consultant.

Design A Logo

McDonalds. Google. The London Olympics. The point is, creating a brand is important, and making a logo can be a fun project. Timm says check out 99 Designs or LogoTournament to get some free options. Check out the Timm logo, which all the kids contributed to, and has more layers of symbolism than a David Lynch movie.

Maximize Family Resources

Create a currency for your family. “We needed to be able to transact things inside our family,” says Timm. “So we used marbles. Each had value. We got out of the chore business and came up with a value system for marbles. As they got older, the marbles weren’t as relevant, and it became real money. Our oldest kids have debit cards. But, it allowed us to really talk about family resources during the family meetings,” says Timm, who says that his daughter has her own PayPal, checking account, and grossed about $1700 in her own business. Suck it, Babysitters Club.

Build A Reputation

As anyone who has visited a Chipotle in the last 6 months can attest to, reputation means a lot. For Mark Timm, it meant that his kids carried themselves in a way that reflected well on the whole fam. “For almost a year I talked about reputation. My youngest became a 6th grader and a high school student came up to her and said, ‘You must be a Timm. I know a Timm when I see one.’ She was floating and told me, ‘Dad you’re right, that reputation stuff is real.'” For an opposite case study, see O’Doyle.

Draft Contracts For Everything

“In the business world you need a contract,” says Timm. “We started using contracts in the Timm house, and when we put this in place we became yes parents instead of no parents.” He drafts up a bit of legalese for everything from his kids’ cell phone plans to participating in a club sport to doing dishes. Sounds extreme? “These are our expectations and just point to it — we don’t drive it down their throat.”

When you have everything in writing, kids can have whatever they want as long as they stick to the rules. Right now you’re asking, ‘What happens when they’re in breach of contract?’ As with anything you sign a contract for, there are consequences. And how are the punishments doled out in the Timm household?

Hold Court

“We started holding family court,” says Timm. “If there’s an infraction they’re tried by a jury of their peers. Teenagers are tried more than younger ones.” He says that his children could care less about him laying down the law, but this little People’s Court is terrifying.

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