This article is the English version of a Spanish article I wrote in Chris Brogan’s OWNER magazine. You can find the original article here.

Oftentimes, I am asked if I got my entrepreneurial bug from my parents. However, they weren’t even entrepreneurs! So where did my inspiration come from? Well, more than 60 years ago, two of my aunts started their own businesses in their respective countries. I believe that these strong, hard-working, persevering, and enterprising aunts had something to do with it!  I decided to interview them to ask them what it was like to start their businesses so long ago and if their businesses have gone through transformations now in the 21st century. So I called my 80-something year old aunts – in Argentina (dad’s side) and in Ecuador (mom’s side). As you can imagine, they had A LOT to say! I am looking forward to further documenting their stories – stay tuned for an E-book!

My Tia Dora from Argentina started a truck and auto parts manufacturing business with her husband in the 1950s. She said that when she started the business, it was very easy and the world was a much calmer place. They started it in one of the rooms of their home. She was always front and center at the shop, interacting with the customers. Her son-in-law Carlos helped her run the business in later years. He said that they had to go through various modifications to their business throughout the years so that they could adapt to the business environment in Argentina and in the world. Their factory of truck and auto parts eventually became obsolete as they battled other international businesses to stay afloat. Although they transitioned through that by becoming the exclusive dealer in Argentina of a well-known brand of parts and also by having an online presence, after over 50 successful years, they closed their doors.

My Tia Yolanda from Ecuador started a retail store with her husband in the 1950’s. She says that it took courage and servitude to start the business. If you don’t have courage, she says, it’s not possible to have the business on a long-term basis because people become discouraged. Tia Yolanda also mentioned that it is key to start a business with good intentions. She was also front and center in her shop, serving her customers. Her son, Cesar, stepped in to help with the store a number of years ago. He whipped the store into shape, the best way he could, to bring it into the 21st century. Meanwhile, he had to carefully restructure the business. Seeing that there were too many product lines,  he did an evaluation of the most purchased products to make sure that they were always in stock, while discontinuing product lines that were not selling. This helped to better manage the working capital. He realized that it was difficult for the family members in the business, as well as for the customers that were used to doing business the old-fashioned way, to adapt to the changes, but things are slowly coming around.

Businesses throughout the world can no longer solely operate the old-fashioned way because this is now a global marketplace. Even the mom-and-pop stores have to be prepared to operate at a global level. Technology has created a business atmosphere that encourages even the smallest of businesses to have an online presence – a website at a minimum – because businesses have to keep up with the times and be constantly adapting their business plan to progress and flourish. But as my aunts’ stories show, keeping the personal touch, no matter the year, is the foundation.

I’m so proud of my aunts! Although their businesses were started decades ago, the way they changed to keep up with the times is still a smart business practice today. How do you see your business adapting in the next year to keep up with the ever-changing technology? How do you think businesses will be different in 50 years?

Keeping Up With The Times