Family Business Challenge V

What to Do When No One is Listening To Your Advice

Over the past 5 months, GAWDA Edge has featured responses from multigenerational family business teams to a series of company-related challenges. This month, teams were asked how they get their parent/child to take their advice. The younger generation that will one day be running many of these companies has the unique challenge of having to learn the traditional way of doing things as well as generate new, innovative ideas. This forces Edgers to develop a delicate balance between taking the advice of their parents and doing things the way they think they should be done.    

How do you get your parent/child to listen and accept your advice? 

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

Family Challenge: Delta GasesKen: That doesn’t start at the time they enter the business, but when they are very young. My son knew that, as the father, I was in charge. I told him all through life to listen to people who are older than him and be respectful of them; if he just listened, he’d learn a lot. Today, when I say something has to go a certain way, that’s it. It’s an executive decision, and he respects it.

Todd: It took some time until my dad was confident that I had a feel for the company. In earlier years, when he questioned whether I understood the business, I had to show a really high level of confidence in an idea and be totally sure that it was the right thing to do. But these days, we’re on the same page 99 percent of the time.  

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

Family Challenge: AIM Welding SupplyAmar: To get my children to listen, I must respect them and listen to them and challenge them by giving them more authority. When I explain things logically and demonstrate through my actions that I am flexible and able to change with the times, they tend to listen more.

Jay: Because he started the business, getting Dad to listen can be hard at times. But he’s pretty open-minded. We have our differences, but he does respect my opinion. When there is an issue, we discuss it as a family; my mother and sister are also very active in the company. My dad is open to our input and will certainly consider an idea when the majority supports it.

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

Family Challenge: Lampton Welding SupplyMarvin: I don’t typically have that trouble. Both of my sons—my younger son, Brad, works in sales—are level-headed and respect my judgment. We sometimes disagree, but I try to create an atmosphere where they’re free to express opinions and defend ideas. When all is said and done, we’ll agree on a specific course of action.

Doug: I really need to have my idea thought through. If it’s financially beneficial for the company, Dad will take time to listen and probably say to go with it. If an idea doesn’t cost too much and if it fails, it won’t be so detrimental that it will sink the company, I usually have the authority to go ahead.

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

Family Challenge: Ozarc GasRobert: The best way to get kids to listen is for me to be patient and express myself in a positive manner. I won’t be an autocratic parent who says: “This is the way it needs to be done.” I allow them to make their own choices. If they make a bad choice, I talk about why that choice was bad and alternatives that may have been better. That way, when it comes to a point where I have a strong opinion and they have a strong opinion, they will respect the decision that I make, even if it goes against what they feel strongly about.

Tracey: I have to go into his office not as his daughter. I never approach him until I have all the facts, all the sources, and I can back up whatever it is I want to discuss with him in a professional manner.

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

Family Challenge: South Jersey Welding SupplyBob: If there was a situation that I felt was serious, I take them out of the office environment and have a one-on-one over dinner or a golf game and make my position clear. My bottom line is that I’ve been in the business a long time, I’ve learned it, and even if they don’t agree with a decision I’ve made, this is simply the way it’s going to be. All in all, I have to give these guys pretty high marks as far as listening to what I say—even though the environment we’ve created does give them a certain degree of freedom to express themselves in a way that they would not be able to if they were working for someone who wasn’t family.

Andrew: I try to give my dad a fair assessment of what the particular situation is, give him the most honest, informed answers to any questions he may have and try to be level headed—look at the big picture, as he always says. We may butt heads, but I respect that he is the president of the company and the final decision is his. Sometimes I can sway him to see things my way, and sometimes he can sway me to his. The great thing is that he is completely approachable. That’s crucial.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association