Entering the Franchise Business as a Family
Listen to the story of the Reinke family, owners of seven Tim Hortons franchises with two generations of family working together. With new family members seeking to join the business, the Reinke family has managed to work cohesively, assign defined roles to each member and at the end of the day agree on important matters. This story shows to all family businesses that it is possible to create consistent shared goals that run throughout a family business.
Content TypeFamily Business Interviews
IndustryFood & Beverage
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I was brought up on a dairy farm, so my wife and I decided we would take up dairy farming with my parents. So we did that for quite a few years, and my parents finally retired. We enjoyed farming, but it was quite costly when my wife did not like cows, although she helped on the farm as much as she could, so we looked around, and we decided that we would try and get into the Tim Horton business. They said you know it is three hundred and sixty-four days a year, and me coming from the dairy farm I said “Oh good I am looking for one day a year off!” Our first store opened in October ninety-four, and it was my wife Janet and myself. We virtually ran the store. Sometimes Janet and I were the only ones in the store. I would ... View More be baking, and Janet would be running the front counter and the drive-thru, so that tells you what the business was like back then. As Tim Hortons progressed the business picked up and before we knew it Tim Hortons asked us if we would like another store, so we purchased another store and then it still the two of us, but then we had to hire managers. In the year 2000, we got a store in Sherwood Park, and my oldest daughter gave us a phone call one night and said they would like to join the family business. We were quite surprised, because Steve, her husband, is a farmer at heart as well, and we thought they were going back farming with his father.
I was in a family business myself, my parents and grandparents still have a family ranch and I was part of that, and I would always see strength in numbers, so the opportunity came up where we had the chance to get into Tim Hortons.
And at first to say the least it was a little bit abrasive, because first of all I did not understand people and family business, and I thought he was trying to be controversial.
There is challenges coming in a founder business, because the founders start the family business. They have their own ways they like to do things, and you have got a couple of new people coming in the family business that have a whole pile of bright ideas.
At the end we found out that we were all working together.
I think it is important that they know that they can trust us with the business and that we have the business’ best interest in minds. We are working for ourselves.
And the thing that I can say about Steve and Melanie is they have really made the business a lot better, bringing other ideas into it. At that point in time, our accountant Don Zinyk was actually my mentor. I knew a lot about cows, but I did not know a lot about people and business, and he says, “You know, you are not doing the right things.” He says, “You need to be working on the business, not in the business.” So what we did then is we made Steve the General Manager of Operations in charge of all the stores, and once I started doing that with the company, I could step back and see that there is a lot of ways we can improve the business, and then just lately in September our youngest daughter Pamela which is, Melanie’s’ younger sister, and her new husband Jordan decided they would like to join the business.
Jordan and I decided we would like to join the family business, because we have just seen it grow, and it is a great business. I have grown up with it since I was in grade four or five. So I have seen the business, and I just thought it would be a great opportunity to work with my family.
Pamela had been in University and had a career of her own, but she always knew that she wanted to join the family business. I sat down with Melanie and Steve and told them that Pamela phoned me and asked if they could join the business. They were a little bit concerned, and Janet and I realized it was the same concerns that we had when Melanie and Steve wanted to join the business. What are they going to do? And Melanie was concerned she was the oldest daughter and she said you know, “This is my thing with mom and dad, and I feel important and part of the business.” And so we sat down with them and talked about it at length over several meetings, and now that Pamela and Jordan have joined, I think we are all starting to see that they are not going to take away anybody’s role or anybody’s importance, and as we figure out roles for Pamela and Jordon, I am sure it is all going to work out, and we are seeing lots of things for them to do already, in fact, far busier than they will have time to do. And again of course our top priority is the family dynamics, and that is most important to us and business is second. We do not always agree on every point but at the end of the day we come to an agreement, and we stick by and there is never any grudges held, and we can all sit around the family table and enjoy dinner together.
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