Family Business: Building a generational legacy
Leaving a lasting mark on society is something that many people wish to do throughout their lives. Whether it’s starting a foundation in the name of a loved one or starting a family business, leaving behind a legacy is a goal many individuals reach for. Franchising can be the avenue that helps people achieve that legacy.
Many franchise systems are developed in a way that allows the owner to pass the company down generation after generation. We all know at least one business that has been in a family for decades. For franchisees, the path toward creating a family legacy can be less complicated than starting a business from scratch and sustaining it for multiple generations.
In addition to brand recognition, franchises have built-in systems that provide franchise owners with the necessary tools to be successful. With these systems in place, family members who take over the business will have systems to fall back on and succeed. In addition, they will have a family of franchisees and executives at headquarters to ask questions.
My family provides a prime example of a franchise that has developed and is still establishing itself as a family legacy business. My father opened our PostNet center in 1992 with the intent of creating a culture where it was important to establish a relationship with the customer, as opposed to viewing them as a means of completing a transaction. Now, some 30 years later, I have followed in his footsteps with my own goals and vision for the company.
Joining the family business
When I was a senior in high school, I had two paths I wanted to pursue: law enforcement or working in the family business. My father never hid his hopes of me following in his footsteps, but he never pressured me into joining the business. While I had been working at the PostNet store since early in my teenage years, the thought of joining law enforcement was still an option. After graduating, I became a full-time, salaried employee of the business. Despite enjoying aspects of the company, I still had an itch to join the police force. So, a little less than 2 years later, I went to college to pursue that goal.
A year and a half into my college career, I began missing the day-to-day of working at the store, as well as the interactions with customers. That’s when I chose to give up law enforcement and return to the family business. Shortly after, I became the general manager and began taking care of the day-to-day operations of the center, with my dad strictly handling the administrative aspects of the company. That’s when my foundation and future in the business were cemented. That happened around 2001 or 2002.
Part of creating a family business is taking lessons you learned from the previous owner and applying them to your plans. Working with my father for the better part of two decades, I learned plenty of lessons about running a business. Building relationships was important to my dad. As a 14-year-old working at the company, I learned everyone’s name and addressed them accordingly. Building those relationships and developing that soft skill set built the foundation that established the successful business we are running today. Each day, I work at continuing that tradition, while also pushing to always perform and be better than the day before.
Creating a family legacy
While maintaining a business that can be passed down is a great goal, some strategies must be developed to ensure you keep a good work/life balance. When working with a family member or spouse, it is important to develop boundaries. Work issues should remain at work to help protect your personal and family time. One should not bleed into the other. While two people might be working in the same space at the same time, if you let that consume every aspect of your professional and personal life, you could be headed down a dark path that may jeopardize your relationship.
For example, my fiancé and I had a long conversation before she came on board at the company. We decided that if we had to discuss work at home, we would set a start and stop time for the discussion. That way we are doing our best to prevent work from flowing over into our personal lives. We wanted time to process family situations and emotions without constantly thinking about the next work issue. That has gone a long way in ensuring that our personal relationship isn’t affected by work.
Keeping a profitable business and passing it down through generations can be difficult. Times change year after year, so it’s necessary to address those changes while keeping the family culture intact. My father was able to do so, and I strive to continue that tradition by continuing to grow the business every day. I want the company to thrive after I’m no longer in charge of it. With my children still being younger (my oldest is 16), I don’t know what the future holds for them. They may not want to be involved in the family business. But even if a longtime employee decides to purchase it, I still consider that part of our legacy, and I want to put them in a position to thrive and succeed. That’s what building a legacy is all about.
Jerry Kahn is the owner of a PostNet store in Lake Forest, Illinois.
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