Family Business Challenge IV

 In the May issue of GAWDA Edge, two generations from five different GAWDA member companies were asked what advice they would give to peers about working with family in a family-owned business. This month, we asked each multi-generational team how they would respond to a hypothetical business scenario to see the differences between the Young Executives’ responses and those of their upper-management parents. Here is what they had to say.  

One of your tech-savvy employees is pushing you to invest in pricey, but important, new technology. What do you do?

Ken Linnenbringer, President, & Todd Linnenbringer, Vice President
Delta Gases (Maryland Heights, MO)

Family Challenge: Delta GasesKen Linnenbringer: That would boil down to dollars and cents. I am always open to new ideas, but I would certainly ask if we can afford it. I do not want to hurt our cash flow.

Todd Linnenbringer: I’d definitely look into it; figure out what kind of return we could get on it. I’m always interested in making things more efficient around here. A year-and-a-half ago, we bought some software that automatically generates invoices. It cut a day job down to an hour. It wasn’t cheap, but it was well worth the investment.  

Marvin Lampton, Chairman and CEO, & Doug Lampton, Vice President
Lampton Welding Supply Company (Wichita, KS)

Family Challenge: Lampton Welding SupplyMarvin Lampton: Before I buy anything—a new machine, a computer, whatever it happens to be—I ask for a cost benefit study to prove to me there is payback in a reasonable length of time. It’s all about ROI.

Doug Lampton: I would do a profit analysis to see if the investment will see a profit at the end of
the day. If I’m investing in something that will grow the business and show a positive outcome, I’d have to do it. 

Amar Kapur, President and CEO, & Jay Kapur, General Manager
AIM Welding Supply (Auburn, MA)

Family Challenge: AIM Welding SupplyAmar Kapur: I look at technology in terms of what it will save compared to what the capital cost is, and I do an ROI on that. If it is more than five years, I’d hold off. But if it is less than five years, I invest in it.

Jay Kapur: I’d like to see what productivity gains we may have. If it’s new technology, it would have to have a positive ROI. ROI and new technology are looked at very seriously here. 

Robert Garner, President, & Tracey Akers, Human Resources Director
Oz-Arc/Gas Equipment & Supply (Cape Girardeau, MO)

Family Challenge: Ozarc GasRobert Garner: I push technology pretty hard. But I have to weigh the cost of that productivity against the benefit that’s going to be derived. If the product warrants the price for the productivity and advantages that it offers, then we take advantage of it.

Tracey Akers: If you don’t change and adapt, you just become stagnant. If the new technology seems like it would be really advantageous, I’d just have to bite the bullet and invest. In lots of cases, the older generation may hold onto the same way of doing things and not see the need for technological upgrades that the next generation does. My father is way beyond me with technology. He loves new and exciting things. It’s the price tag that stops him. 

Bob Thornton Jr., President, & Andrew Thornton, Branch Manager
South Jersey Welding Supply (Vineland, NJ)

Family Challenge: South Jersey Welding SupplyRobert Thornton Jr.: I’d do it. To give you an example, right now we have a robot sitting on the floor just for demonstration purposes. We’ve always been very welding-oriented in our businesses. I would draw the line at something that was outside our business norm. There must be an obvious business benefit to the investment.

Andrew Thornton: I’d look at the ROI and its potential. I am not averse to making technological advances. I suspect that I’d be more aggressive toward computerized improvements—more advanced ways of handling billing, electronic invoicing—than my dad might. I’m going to look at each item and what it will do to help the company long-term and try to pick the best one.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association