Over the holidays, at a small reunion of ex-coworkers, an invited outsider said he always liked our company from a distance. The employees seemed to enjoy one another even outside of work. It was like family. This implied of course that normally a wall exists between company and family.
The Birth Of Company And Family
Yet, in the beginning, during medieval times, families gave birth to companies. In other words, the first companies were families. Proof is with us today in the word “company.” It’s from the Latin cum panis, meaning “with bread.” This reflected the truth that companies came from those who broke bread together, in other words, family.
Further proof exists in the dual meaning of “company.” When we have company over, it’s not a company. They are friends and family. Again, those we would enjoy “with bread,” cum panis.
Linking Company And Family With Names
Thus, a company being like a family was the norm, not the cherished odd ball. The company was family. The names of these companies exist today in people’s names. Here are a few examples of those I’ve known:
- Baxter identified families who baked.
- Brewster identified beer makers.
- Chandler – dealers and traders
- Clark – clerks
- Cohen – priests or rabbi’s
- Cooper – makers of vessels with hoops
- Crocker – potters
- Draper – dealers in dry goods
- Farmer – farmers
- Fuller – cleaners and finishers of cloth
- Hayward – workers fences
- Hooker – reapers
- Mason – bricklayers
- Porter – keepers of doors
- Saddler – makers and repairers of saddles
- Sawyer – carpenters who specialize in the use of saws
- Schumacher – shoemakers
- Slater & Thatcher – roofers
- Wainwright – wagon makers
- Weber – weavers of cloth
- Webster – operators of looms
- Wright – construction workers
In those times, powered machines, assembly lines and computers did not exist. Humans were the energy source. Their bodies, legs and hands worked the tools. Their names were their trades, the names of their companies.
Family Spirit As Ancestor Of The Company Today
Early in my career, a sales manager was big on going back to the basics now and then. He felt that it was easy to get “too cute” and fancy. This led to fooling oneself and becoming sloppy.
Along the same lines, many cultures honor their ancestors. This happens much during holidays. They reflect back on what they taught us, on what they left us to build upon.
In the beginning, families were the first companies. There was no need for companies to be like families because they were. Company and family were one.
If our ancestors came back today for the holidays, what would they say about our companies? What would they say about those in them with whom we gather and “break bread?” Would they suggest getting back to the basics just for a moment to see if we even could?
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