What advice do you have about young professionals joining the family business?
Marvin Lampton, Chairman and CEO, & Doug Lampton, Vice President
Lampton Welding Supply Company (Wichita, KS)
Doug Lampton: My advice to young family members considering working in the family business is to first work at another company for several years and develop an appreciation for what hard work is really like. Then when you join the family business, expect it to get much harder. In a family business, you have to work a lot more than a guy who punches a clock in a corporate job.
Marvin Lampton: Have your kids work for someone else—for at least five years. After that, if they still want to work in the family business, then find a place for them. By working elsewhere first, they may learn a few lessons that will be easier for them to accept, because those lessons came from someone who wasn’t family.
Ken Linnenbringer, President, & Todd Linnenbringer, Vice President
Delta Gases (Maryland Heights, MO)
Todd Linnenbringer: Expect to work more than the next guy. If you don’t, when you start moving up the ranks, people will be skeptical and think you don’t deserve it. Someday you will be president, and you want that respect. Become a “knowledge sponge.” Learn everything you can from those who’ve been in the business a long time.
Ken Linnenbringer: Working in a family business isn’t for everyone, and parents would be unwise to try to force the issue on their offspring. The key is to make sure they want to do it. Don’t ‘make’ them do it. Encourage your kids to get a feel for the working world by beginning their careers with another company. It will give them a better perspective.
Amar Kapur, President and CEO, & Jay Kapur, General Manager
AIM Welding Supply (Auburn, MA)
Jay Kapur: If you want to join the family company, you need to start at the bottom and work in a variety of different positions. A big mistake some family businesses make is giving family members important management positions right away, which can create hard feelings among the other workers.
Amar Kapur: If you decide together that your children should join the family business, you must work with them and challenge them on an equal footing with other employees. Many parents make the mistake of expecting far more from their offspring than they do from other employees. You cannot have a double standard.
Robert Garner, President, & Tracey Akers, Human Resources Director
Oz-Arc/Gas Equipment & Supply (Cape Girardeau, MO)
Tracey Akers: Know that this is a long-term commitment; a family business is not like a traditional job where you just give two weeks notice and walk away. You’re dealing with your family here. But the biggest thing you need to look at is whether you can separate family life from business. That’s crucial.
Robert Garner: People who grow their own companies keep a lot of information to themselves because they don’t want anyone else knowing about the inner workings of their business. But you have to share the details about the health of the business as your kids grow into more responsible positions within the organization.
Bob Thornton Jr., President, & Andrew Thornton, Branch Manager
South Jersey Welding Supply (Vineland, NJ)
Andrew Thornton: There are many rewards in being in the family business, but there can also be sacrifices. Be prepared for oddball hours. If the store alarm goes off at 3 a.m., you may be the one who goes and checks it. When there’s conflict with family, you must find a way to work it out. You can’t hold a grudge; treat it as business.
Robert Thornton Jr.: Parents should let their offspring do something else first, then come back to the family business. Have them get an education and then see what life is like out in the world. That way, they will be sure that working in the family business is something they really want to do. Whatever you do, don’t force the issue. Let your child decide.