Thomas grew up in a family business in Texas, and he learned from a young age that family enterprise, like all businesses, are concerned with profit, managing competitive threats, and anticipating market conditions. He also learned the unique attributes that family values bring to the culture of a business, including the principles of fairness and personal responsibility.

In his family life, everyone was expected to pull their own weight, and that extended to the family business. And a family business must not only support the current generation, but also lay the foundation for those to come. The environment in Texas can be harsh, which underscored the merits of hard work. Growing up he saw that there might well be years of abundance, but the seasons and economic cycles could just as easily result in lean times, teaching him there can be no “coasting” or resting on one’s business laurels.

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Thomas’s community in Texas is sparsely populated, where most residents know each other. There are no private schools, and everyone attends the same community events. As such, when he was growing up, there was very little that separated the lifestyles of the wealthy from those of more modest circumstances. From this status-free upbringing, Thomas learned that the members of a community are dependent on one another, and the importance of helping others, regardless of circumstance. From this, Thomas learned the concept of “circular economies” long before the term was popular:

If you want your community to support you, then you must support your community.”

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In small towns, it’s been said that “everyone knows your business,” and the lesson for Thomas was the importance of identity and reputation.

From the perspective of family enterprise, the values held within a family can be manifest in their business, producing strong identity, which can then amplify those values into the larger community.