Erasing the line between business and personal.

06 Apr

My husband and I own a consulting firm together, so when we experienced this personal loss, it rippled through our professional lives as well. Many of our clients are also people we consider as friends, and it was wonderful to receive their support through emails, cards, and attendance at Julian’s Celebration of Life.

Our firm publishes a monthly newsletter article, and after some discussion, we decided that the April article would be a case study about how John and I used social media tools to communicate about Julian’s diagnosis, treatment, and death. (You can read my newsletter article on the firm’s website.)

I received an email from a friend and fellow business owner, who asked me, “Can you tell me about your decision to bring your story to your clients in your company newsletter?” I thought about it for a few minutes, then replied to my friend:

There were a few reasons why we decided to share this on the EG site. It kind of started with the “baby wall” in the office kitchen. The photo of Julian was about 2 years old (I’d been meaning to update it forever), so I took it down and had to decide what to do. Leave him off the wall to avoid people asking questions about him? Use a recent photo, and treat him the same as all the other kids? Put up the keepsake photo we passed out at his Celebration, which will draw attention to his story and could make people uncomfortable when we give tours?

Ultimately, John and I together decided to go with the latter… the keepsake photo. We decided, this is part our lives now. If we start “hiding” it, or start making decisions based on other people’s potential discomfort, we’d never be able to stop. And, why should we hide it?

So then, we gave a tour. When we were in my office, one of our clients saw my set of framed photos of the boys and said, “Oh! Are those your kids?” I knew these moments would happen, but this was the first time. “Yep!” I answered, then walked out of the room and took the group quickly through the kitchen, hoping no one would notice the keepsake photo. They didn’t.

So after that day, again we needed to make a decision. Let the topic come up organically? Or just put it out there and get it over with, proactively? Again, we chose the latter. Most of our current clients already know, anyway.

Ultimately, even though John and I are introverts, sharing the story in a personal but appropriate way was more consistent with the EG brand.

After this month, our newsletter will move on to a less personal topic. But for now, anyone who visits the firm’s website is invited to read our story. There really isn’t a line between personal and professional for us, and that’s just fine.

We want to integrate Julian’s memory into as many parts of our lives as we can.

I’d love to know who visits my blog, and I’d especially like to know if you have any thoughts or comments about it. If you’d like to post a comment or just let me know you were here, click the “Comment” link below to get access to a comment box and a “like” button. Just like on Facebook, you can “like” the post as a method of saying hi.
If you’d like to send me a private message, use the comment box but start with the word “Private.”


Posted by on April 6, 2011 in month 2


6 responses to “Erasing the line between business and personal.

  1. betsey k.

    April 7, 2011 at 12:14 am

    You are the bravest introvert I know. I’m so grateful to stay connected to you through this blog. It’s fantastic and your story is a gift to us all! I’ll be checking in and cheering you on Emily!! xo -b

  2. Linda Brandt

    April 13, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Emily, your comment reminded me of my years of struggling with what therapists call”boundaries”. Being the CEO of RAAN( rural aids action network) I felt they we would error on the side of client support and staff support if we could share our human/ caring side with each other. If we remained open to others ” stories” and non judgmental of each other, we would all grow in maturity and wisdom. Secrets only cause hurts. Privacy is different than sharing feelings. If someone equates the two there needs to be clarification. If death makes some people uncomfortable, they need to be encouraged to seek private counseling. A story I often told groups was about how moms of persons with aids were always there for the child coming home but the dads were often not. One exclusion to this was dads who were in good recovery from addiction. They had learned comfort in unconditional love and welcomed this time of saying their good byes.
    Thank you for sharing, Linda Brandt

    • Emily

      April 14, 2011 at 11:00 pm

      Hi Linda, I’ve always admired your work with RAAN. That’s so interesting (and sad) how death in all forms brings up questions and judgment about the issues of boundaries, privacy, and secrets. Thank you for sharing your comment.

  3. Marianne Carolan

    April 25, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Hi Emily,

    I continue to check in on your blog. I appreciate your reflections and your desire to both honor Julian and move forward with your life.
    Your use of social media as you go through this process is wonderful and powerful for you and others. You write so well.
    I wanted to share a story and send two links to you. Last fall the Bucklin family in Southwest Minneapolis lost their husband/dad, Luke, and three sons in a plane crash over the mountains of Wyoming. Luke was CEO at Sierra Bravo, a web development firm. The twins, Nate and Nick, were freshman at Southwest High School and Noah was a 7th grader at Anthony Middle School. You probably heard about all of this. Luke’s wife, Ginger, is moving forward with hers and Luke’s dream to develop the Bucklin Family Foundation to keep families connected through social media and technology. I am including the link to Ginger’s family blog
    and to the blog at the Nerdery part of the web development business
    where you can read about some of this.

    There is such a similarity here of two families using their personal lives and losses AND business interests and skills in such positive and connecting ways.

    Anyway, I wanted to share this with you.

    Hope you are having a good day TODAY and that Julian is smiling on you.

    Marianne Carolan

    • Emily

      April 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      Hi Marianne, I never had an opportunity to meet Luke, but our whole industry was hit hard by that story. I read Ginger’s blog when they were searching for the plane, but I haven’t read it since then. I’ll be sure to do that. Thank you for providing the links, and thank you your feedback on this blog. It really means a lot to me.

  4. suzanne pope

    April 27, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Dear Emily,
    Your blog is absolutely wonderful, so honest, and wise. At our house we think of you every day with reminders of pictures of Julian, a red bracelet, a butterfly pin, a candle lit.
    How many are walking beside you through your words, learning insight through your journey and loving you from all corners. I treasure every word you write.
    Bless you and your family and the love you share.


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