WealthSpike: The many, many meanings of family business


This was a headline in the Washington Post the day after the Brussel’s bomb attacks – “Jihad has become a family business”. It was a quote from an expert saying that if one family member becomes radicalised there’s a likelihood that other family members will as well. So, not all family businesses are so nice – in fact, some are pretty horrendous when they are linked to Jihad.

Of course, there should only be one meaning of family business, and it’s pretty clear – a family (a group of people linked by blood, or marriage) that runs a business (commercial activity). But, as the Washington Post article shows, it can be used in many different contexts, including for terrorists.

Here’s another interesting context it has been used in – a tattoo shop in central London. And this is potentially more interesting because it could represent a new meaning for the phrase altogether. Type in family business into Google – at least in the UK – and the first entry is The Family Business Tattoo Shop (it appears to have extraordinary SEO abilities, but that’s a different story).

Established in 2003, the “family” bit of the business looks like it refers to a family of tattoo artists. It appears to have nothing to do with the conventional meaning of a family business applied by this publication and many others. The tattoo shop broadens the meaning – with the family being any group of people with a similar profession, or even outlook on life….

When conventional views of the family are changing more and more, maybe this broader view of a family business, where a commonality of professions and/or interests might catch on in the future.

That might not be such a bad thing. But what will be less appealing is the potential for the phrase to be used more frequently in the context of radical Islam. Let’s hope that’s not the case…


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