Encouraging children to find their own paths
Listen to the Grossmans, a fourth generation business family in the communications sector, operating Grossman Marketing Group based in Massachusetts, USA, describe their experience of welcoming the next generation into the family business. In a family business, when considering to integrate the rising generation, it is important to consider what they are passionate about beforehand.
Content TypeFamily Business Interviews
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My father always said to his children, “The business is always there, if you want to come into the business there is always an opportunity for you. Recognize that you are going to have to work very hard because we are in the printing business. It is a very competitive business, so you are going to have to work hard for everything you are going to get. But if you want to come into the business it is yours, for a job opportunity, not to be a senior executive, but to come in and have a role.” But he also said, “But do what you want to do with your life. You want to be a teacher, be a teacher, if you want to be a lawyer, be a lawyer. Realize your full potential. Get the most out of your life.” So it was kind of reverse ... View More psychology. He said, “Go off and do what you want to do with your lives, but the business is also here.” He wound up with all three of his children in the business: me, my sister Mary Ellen who is treasurer of the company, and my sister Amy who is our part-time marketing director. So Barbara and I said the same thing to our boys. We said, “Look, get a great education, and if you want to come into the business at some point it is available to you, but do what you want to do with your lives and we will support you in everything you do as long as it is productive.”
I graduated from college; I lived in New York for three years. I was working in marketing and development. I started thinking about what I was going to do next, and I said to my dad, “You know Dad, I think I want to be an investment banker.” He said, “You are creative, you are dynamic, you are hard-working, but you are not the kind of person who is going to succeed in an environment where you have to sleep under your desk for three hours a night while crunching numbers for the higher-ups at an investment bank.” He said, “Have you given any thought to the business?” You know, capital T capital B.
I thought about it. I talked to my talk to my girlfriend at the time who is now my wife and I said, “What would you think about moving up to Boston?” She said, “Listen, MassEnvelope has provided a wonderful lifestyle for you and your family for many generations. If it is important to you, I support that fully.” And the more I thought about it the more I realized that it was going to be important to me to be the first member of the fourth generation in the business.
I came into the business with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder because I knew that everybody was going to expect me to live off of the fact that I was the next generation and I was determined to prove everybody wrong. So I came in, I worked longer than anybody else. I worked incredibly hard. I sort of came into the business knowing that I had to prove myself and I think I have managed to do that.
Our dad and our grandfather would expose us to the business operations and what it meant to serve a customer, what it meant to be a good employer, what it meant to work well with your family. But I never really planned to work at the company. I wanted to expose myself to a few different types of industries while still always thinking in the back of my head about the business. At that point my brother David had already been at the company a few years. I had been hearing about his experience. It had been very positive.
Before I joined the business, I talked to other people who had gone into their family businesses to get some advice. And the advice ranged from keep your head down, learn about the business before you speak up so that when you speak up you are right and it is grounded in facts, but also how can you establish your credibility with the folks at the organization.
Coming into the business people learned to trust me because they knew that I was getting the job done. You know you hear plenty of stories about family businesses where the scion of the family business comes into the organization and quote unquote puts their feet up on their desk. And what that does, people resent that person because they feel like, “I am here working really hard and that guy who is a member of the family is slacking off and that is not fair.”
One way that that we realized quickly would be a great way to establish my credibility was by generating revenue. Numbers do not lie. If I come in and bring business to the organization, I am helping to protect people's jobs and helping to grow the organization.
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