he Turners of Manasquan, NJ, consider it aprivilege to operate their family-owned bakerybusiness. “This business is more than doughnuts;it’s us,” says Jim Turner. “We all share in theawards that my father has won over the years.”The Schundlers of Edison, NJ, have had the familybusiness in their blood for generations. Theirgrandfather, H.C. Schundler, founded theirconstruction material business and their great uncle,F.E. Schundler, founded an aspect of the entireindustry. F.E. then set up his nephew, OttoSchundler, inthe business in1951.“The realchallenge of mygeneration isnot just to keepthe SchundlerCo. current intechnology andmarkets, butmost important,to develop atradition of passing the company from one managerto the next in a timely manner.”The legacy. For some family businesses, it isthe primary motivation for keeping a companyalive. F.E. Schundler, Jeff’s great uncle, may nothave intended to create one when he began thebusiness over 70 years ago, but that is whatdeveloped over the years.In fact, Schundler’s story was probably just likeany other entrepreneur’s. He had one good idea, orcould not find a job, or get along with his boss, orwas stubbornly independent and started thecompany from scratch. There was not any profit foryears, let alone any legacy to protect. The burdenwould be borne by future generations.Says Jeff Schundler, the company’s CEO: “Weeach feel an obligation to improve the business. Itdoesn’t matter what our titles are. If your name isSchundler, you give just a little bit more.”Put yourself in the position of being the heir of your grandparents’ business. If you do not want todo that type of work, the legacy is at risk. Couldyou handle the guilt? If you could, would yourrelatives let you?Some families know the scenario all too well.When the time came to plan for succession, none of their children wanted to run the business, so theyspent the next several years looking for buyers andworking with the estate planning experts to limittheir tax obligations as they transferred assets totheir children and the company to others.“I’d be lying to myself if I said that I’m notdisappointed,” says one owner, who grew thecompany from $150,000 in revenues in 1950 to $4million in 1980. “We took care of our familyfinancially, but when the company passed tosomeone else, it was as though part of us died.”To many, having a family-owned business waslike having another child. It did not feel right tostop nurturing it.“I feel very gratified knowing that my son,Doug, wants to continue my business,” says StevenGyure, president of S4J, Inc., a New Brunswick-based manufacturer of specialty lures for themedical industry. “Years ago, I wasn’t sure any of my three children would want to take over thebusiness, but as Doug became an adult, it becameobvious that he would make an excellent presidentsome day. It’s like having a piece of yourself liveon well after you are gone. It’s been fun to see apreview of what the future will be like.”To many entrepreneurs, having a familybusiness goes beyond how many relatives areinvolved in the company. Art Crowley, Sr.,president of Garon Products Inc., thinks of GaronProducts as a family business because of “how weall depend on each other on a daily basis.” One visitto Garon Products’ Wall headquarters and youknow what Art means. Except for some physicalclues, like similarly shaped noses, you might notknow that Art Jr. and Mike are the only otherCrowleys in the business.Do not tell Vinnie Azzenza, Bob Hornak, andChris Grant they are not relatives. They will notbelieve you. Even if suddenly no Crowleys came towork, these managers would press on. The Garonway transcends Crowley.Because of such very personal feelings thatbecome associated with family-owned businesses,offspring sense their parents’ desire to have thebusiness live on, even when their parents have nothad an opportunity to make their desires known.
THE LEGACY: FAMILY BUSINESSES STRUGGLE WITHSUCCESSION
By Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP, The Growth Strategist™
To many, having a family-owned business was like having another child. It did not feel right to stop nurturing it.